Death toll rises to 44 in worst ever Balkan flooding

Serbian rows a boat past flooded ambulance vehicles in the flooded town of ObrenovacJNN 20 May 2014 Kosovo : The overall death toll in the unprecedented floods that have raged across the Balkans has reached 44, as more bodies were recovered from the Serbian town of Obrenovac on Sunday.

In “Obrenovac alone we recovered 12 corpses,” Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said, as cited by the Associated Press. That brings the number of disaster victims in Serbia up to 16, while Bosnia has confirmed 27 dead and Croatia one.

Rescue teams and humanitarian aid have come to Serbia and neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina from 14 European Union member-states. Kristalina Georgieva, the EU’s humanitarian aid chief, said it was a “perfect demonstration of European solidarity.”

Famous movie director, Emir Kusturica, has donated his two helicopters to Serbian rescuers to assist with evacuations.

“According to information I got from the pilots, my Robinsons saved 25 people, mostly children,” Kusturica said, as cited by Itar-Tass. “The helicopters have spent almost 24 hours in the air, and as long as the battle with the water continues, they will be at the government’s disposal.”

Russian relief workers in Serbia have evacuated more than 2,100 people over two days, including 576 children from flooded areas. On Sunday, two Russian cargo planes brought food, generators and rescue boats to the disaster-struck country.

The Russian team of 76 rescuers has mostly been working in the worst-hit Serbian town of Obrenovac.

“When the [Russian] crew arrived, a bigger part of the town was under water, in some of the areas water was reaching the roofs,” said Aleksandr Savoskin, assistant to the director of the Russian-Serbian humanitarian center. “What aggravated the situation was the fact that roads turned into streams, and evacuation was only possible by boat or helicopter.”

In total, over 24,000 people in Serbia have been evacuated as a result of several days of heavy rains, according to Sunday’s estimate announced by the head of the sector for emergency situations at the country’s Interior Ministry, Predrag Maric.

Serbian PM Vucic emotionally described the natural disaster as the worst “not just in a hundred, but in a thousand years.”

Vucic said the biggest danger was still presented by the Sava river: it has not overflown thanks to kilometers-long sandbag barriers. In the area of Sabac city, the water has been standing at a level of 6.6 meters, but if the water rises to 6.8 meters it will spill over the barriers.

Survivors of the most severely flooded regions have found temporary shelter in schools, university campuses and hotels. They shudder to recall what they went through and to think of what lies ahead.

“I carried my kids out on my back, then waited 12 hours to be rescued myself,” 40-year-old Obrenovac resident Dragan Todorovic told Reuters. “The house was new, built two years ago for 100,000 euros. What now?”

Officials in the disaster-affected countries have not yet come up with estimates of the damage caused by the floods, but they already expect those to be astronomical. The agricultural sector, on which the economies of the Balkan countries rely, is expected to bear the brunt of the record flooding.

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