Flood damage in Bosnia 'is worse than chaos from war'
SWATHES of the Balkans are under water and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced as three months' rain fell in three days, causing floods in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia, which Sarajevo said was more damaging than the 1990s civil war.
Tens of thousands of people were mobilised and equipped with sandbags and barricades to defend Belgrade and a power station in a nearby satellite town, Serbia's largest, against the rising waters of the Sava river, which have killed 47 people so far. Tens of thousands more were evacuated to emergency shelters.
Authorities believe the worst could be yet to come when on Wednesday morning the flood crest of the Sava joins the Danube.
Following estimates that a quarter of the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina had been affected, Bakir Izetbegovic, the country'spresident, declared that it would take years to recover from the tragedy.
"This is the worst thing we have faced since the war that we had 20 years ago," he said. "Hundreds of square kilometres are under water in some parts. In some cities, in some villages in northern Bosnia there is two or three metres of water Aleksandar Vucic, the Serbian prime minister, ordered the evacuation of the 70,000-strong population of Obrenovac, a historic town near the coal-fired Nikola Tesla power plant.
Parts of the plant and a nearby mine that provides its fuel are under water.
Damage to the mine alone is estimated to be more than euros 100?million (pounds 88 million). "We expect huge support, because not many countries have experienced such a catastrophe," Mr Vucic said.
A day after Novak Djokovic, the Serbian tennis champion, dedicated his win and winnings at the Italian Open to his native land, his foundation spearheaded a social media campaign to raise international donations for the victims.
The 2,100 landmines that have affected hilly Bosnia alone are of particular concern as authorities fear that minefields marked out after the civil war may have been washed downstream, which could damage hydroelectric infrastructure and could even migrate into neighbouring countries.
An estimated one million landmines were planted during Bosnia's 1992-95 war.
Nearly 120,000 of the unexploded devices remain in more than 9,400 carefully marked minefields. "During the war, many people lost everything,"
said Zlatko Lagumdzija, the Bosnian foreign minister. "Today, again they have nothing."
Communities in both countries continued to stack sandbags and dig trenches to protect towns from flooding. Soldiers and energy workers worked through the night to build barriers of sandbags to keep the water back from Serbia's Nikola Tesla energy complex and from a second site, the Kostolac coal-fired plant, east of Belgrade.
Hundreds of volunteers in the capital filled sandbags and stacked them along the banks of Sava. Police issued an appeal for more bags.
Djina Trisovic, a union spokeswoman at Serbia's EPS power utility, said some workers at the Nikola Tesla plant had worked three days with barely a break because their relief teams could not reach the plant.
"The plant should be safe now," she said. "We've done all we could. Now it's in the hands of God."
The plant provides roughly half of Serbia's electricity. Parts were already shut down as a precaution, and it would have to be powered down completely if the waters breached the defences.
In Krupanj, in western Serbia, a woman wept on the remains of her destroyed house. Several other homes had tilted into the swollen river, with mud and tree branches driven through walls and windows by the force of a landslide. (© Daily Telegraph, London)