SREMSKA MITROVICA, Serbia: Thousands crammed into boats and army trucks as they fled their homes in Serbia and Bosnia on Sunday (Monday in Manila) after record rainfall turned the Sava river into a deadly torrent and caused the worst floods in more than a century.
Officials say the disaster has killed at least 44 people so far. Some towns have been completely cut off and rescue teams feared the worst as they were finally able to move in.
Some 10,000 people have been evacuated so far from the worst affected areas of northern Bosnia, but in some places like the town of Samac, hundreds of stranded people were still waiting to be rescued.
“We sent rescue teams into a part of the city we had not been able to access so far. They are entering those areas fearing what they might discover,” Mayor Samo Minic told reporters.
Rescuers who arrived found widespread devastation.
“It looks like a tsunami and earthquake occurred at once. Water carries everything. Corpses of animals could be seen floating everywhere,” said Nedeljko Brankovic, who was among rescue workers who managed to reach the village of Krupanj in western Serbia after two days.
“We found some 50 people gathered in the highest house. They had neither electricity nor drinking water. Telephones did not work. We evacuated them 10 by 10 in a huge boat,” Brankovic said.
Besides the flooding, the worst rainfall since records began in the late 19th century also caused landslides that brought more destruction and also prompted a landmine warning.
Bosnia’s demining agency said residents around the towns of Doboj, Maglaj and Olovo—which saw fierce fighting during the war in the 1990s—should be particularly wary of landmines that may have been dislodged by the floods.
Twenty of the 27 deaths recorded in Bosnia occurred in Doboj while on the other side of the Sava river, in Serbia, at least 16 bodies were found.
In “Obrenovac alone we recovered 12 corpses,” Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said of the town 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Belgrade, bringing the toll in Serbia to 16.
“Unfortunately there are estimates that the death toll will be higher,” he said.