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Devastating Floods in the Balkans
By admin June 9, 2014

A man walks through flood water in the town of Obrenovac in Serbia Credit: REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

A man walks through flood water in the town of Obrenovac in Serbia Credit: REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

On May 13th, Cyclone Tamara hit southeastern Europe and, over a few days, pummeled it with three months’ worth of rainfall exceeding 4 inches (100 mm). The region’s most severe flooding in more than a century has killed over 60 people and displaced half a million, predominantly in Bosnia, Serbia and eastern Croatia. Officials in Bosnia fear the damage caused by heavy rains and landslides will exceed that caused by the entire Balkan conflict fought between Bosnians, Serbs and Croats between 1992 and 1995. In Serbia, 3,500 km of roads have been destroyed or damaged, and about 30 percent of railway lines cannot be accessed. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development estimates the damage in Serbia at up to $2.7 billion, or 7 percent of national output, and $1.7 billion in Bosnia, or 10 percent of output. Serbia and Bosnia are among the poorest countries in Europe, with unemployment rates close to 44 percent and property insurance a rarity.

As the waters recede, concerns are growing over two crucial issues, the first of which is landmines. Bosnian authorities are warning that many of the more than 100,000 landmines, leftover after the war, have been dislodged by floodwaters and landslides. The second concern is the spread of diseases from contaminated water. The New York Times reported that much of Serbia’s most fertile agricultural land has been turned into “a poisonous stew of toxic chemicals, rotting carcasses and disease-carrying insects,” making the outbreak of epidemics inevitable.

The international response has been promising, with a significant push from Germany, Austria and Russia, who offered rescue teams and donations of medical supplies, food, potable water and clothing. However, the wave of solidarity has given way to questions about the government’s responsiveness and readiness in the face of natural calamities. Although meteorologists had given several days’ notice of the threat posed by Cyclone Tamara, no evacuation orders were issued. Furthermore, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has claimed that online content critical of the government’s response to the flood has disappeared, offering a worrying sign of media censorship. Thus, while the floods may provide an opportunity to improve regional cooperation, it may also prove as a true test of good governance for ruling parties in the Balkans.

For more information:

– http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/22/world/europe/as-waters-recede-serbias-worries-turn-to-disease.html

– http://online.wsj.com/articles/landslides-land-mines-complicate-balkan-flood-cleanup-1401461482

– http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2014/05/balkan-flood-devastation-exceeds-war-damage-2014521143138991821.html

– http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/03/us-balkans-flood-idUSKBN0EE0Y720140603


Thanks for sharing !


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