A man waits to be rescued from his house during heavy floods in Vojskova, Bosnia. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic
Bosnian officials say more than a quarter of the country's 4
million people have been affected by the worst floods to hit
the Balkans in living memory, comparing the "terrifying"
destruction to that of the country's 1992-95 war.
The extent of the devastation became apparent in Serbia too,
as waters receded in some of the worst-hit areas to reveal
homes toppled or submerged in mud, trees felled and villages
strewn with the rotting corpses of livestock.
The regional death toll reached more than 40, after the
heaviest rainfall since records began 120 years ago caused
rivers to burst their banks and triggered hundreds of
"The consequences ... are terrifying," Bosnian Foreign
Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija told a news conference. "The
physical destruction is not less than the destruction caused
by the war."
Lagumdzija said more than 100,000 houses and other buildings
in Bosnia were no longer fit to use and that over a million
people had been cut off from clean water supplies.
"During the war, many people lost everything," he said.
"Today, again they have nothing."
His remarks threw into sharp relief the extent of the
challenge now facing the cash-strapped governments of both
Bosnia and Serbia.
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said the cost in
Serbia would run to hundreds of millions of euros. President
Tomislav Nikolic appealed for outside aid.
"We expect huge support, because not many countries have
experienced such a catastrophe," he said.
Even as the crisis eased in some areas, a new flood wave from
the swollen River Sava threatened others, notably Serbia's
largest power plant, the Nikola Tesla complex, 30 km (18
miles) southwest of the capital Belgrade.
In Bosnia, Assistant Security Minister Samir Agic told
Reuters that up to 35,000 people had been evacuated by
helicopter, boat and truck. As many as 500,000 had left their
homes of their own accord, he said, in the kind of human
displacement not seen since more than a million were driven
out by ethnic cleansing in the Bosnian war two decades ago.
At least 25,000 people have been evacuated in Serbia, but
many more are believed to have fled the flooding.
Hundreds of volunteers in the Serbian capital filled sandbags
and stacked them along the banks of the Sava. Police issued
an appeal for more bags.
Soldiers and energy workers toiled through the night to build
barriers of sandbags to keep the water back from the Nikola
Tesla complex and from the coal-fired Kostolac power plant,
east of Belgrade.
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 relief teams
could not reach the plant.
"The plant should be safe now," she told Reuters. "We've done
all we could. Now it's in the hands of God."
The plant provides roughly half of Serbia's electricity.
Parts of it had already been shut down as a precaution, but
it would have to be powered down completely if the waters
breached the defences.
Flooding had already caused considerable damage, estimated by
the government at over 100 million euros ($140 million), to
the Kolubara coal mine that supplies the plant.
Authorities in Bosnia issued a fresh warning about the danger
of landmines left over from the war and now dislodged by the
In the north Bosnian region of Maglaj, barely a single house
was left untouched by the waters, which receded to leave a
tide of mud and debris.
In the village of Donja Polja, where Muslim Bosniaks returned
in 1995 to homes burned or shelled during the war, Hatidza
Muhic swept the mud from the hallway of her house. Dark lines
on the walls indicated the water had reached some 3 metres
"I thought the war was as bad as it can get, but it can get
worse," Muhic said. "I just pray to God that we can save our
minds, because first we were hit by the war, and now this."