In the town of Tuzla in north-eastern Bosnia, three members of a family were killed at the weekend when a landslide struck their house, as heavy rains have brought misery to the Balkans. Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro have all declared flood emergencies. The River Drina, which runs along the borders of the three countries, has swollen to its highest level in a century. Around 20,000 people have now been forced to evacuate their homes and damage across this poor region is already estimated at around 450 million dollars.
In Bosnia, 4,000 people have been evacuated in areas inundated by flooding from the River Drina. In Foca, the floodwater is reported to have reached the second storey of buildings and an eyewitness in nearby Gorazde says the river looks more like a lake. In the town of Gorazde, patients from the local hospital were sent home when power cuts lead to a breakdown in the building’s heating system. The local authorities are also worried about disease, because the flood waters are contaminated with sewage. Parts of Gorazde have been disinfected and officials are trying to persuade many villagers in submerged areas to abandon their homes and livestock.
Across the opposite bank in neighbouring Serbia, homes, farms and roads are also flooded. The River Sava, which flows east into Serbia, is also rising, though the government in Belgrade is not expecting the water levels in this river to cause significant damage. Rivers in southern Bosnia are also looking threateningly high and officials are hoping they will not burst their banks.
The worst flooding in the region has been in northern Albania. Here, Lake Shkoder has doubled in size from the heavy rain draining down the alpine rivers since the start of December. More than 12,000 Albanians have been displaced from their homes, the red rooftops of their houses just visible above the water. In the town of Shkoder itself, food and water is arriving by boat. NATO helicopters have also been drafted in to distribute supplies to areas which the Albanian navy is unable to reach. The flooding here is believed to have covered around 14,000 hectares of land, the depth of the water in some places signalled by the fact that only the tops of electricity pylons can be seen.
Meteorologists are now predicting that the torrential rain of the past days is easing and the River Drina is showing signs of receding, though the Bosnian authorities forecast many houses in the east of the country will remain underwater for some while. Once the clear up operation begins, it will be easier to assess the damage caused by the floods in Bosnia. One government official believes losses already run to around 335 million dollars, money which will be hard to come by in this relatively poor Balkan country.