The Balkans: Worst floods in Century continue to cause havoc

Published: 18 May 2014 12:32 CET

Although the water has receded in some areas, the worst floods in more than a century continue to create havoc in large parts of both Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Appeals have been launched for Serbia and for Bosnia and Herzogovina.

While thousands are still waiting to be rescued from their homes, tens of thousands have been evacuated and are staying with families, in sports centers or in schools. In Serbia an estimated 300,000 are without safe water or electricity. In Bosnia and Herzegovina the figure is 50,000. Many are living in unsafe and insanitary conditions created by the floods.

Almost one third of Bosnia is affected by floods with houses, roads and railway lines being submerged in the north eastern part of the country. A state of emergency has been declared in 14 municipalities, while cities like Maglaj and Doboj were almost completely submerged, with hundreds of people being rescued from rooftops on Saturday.

A vast number of landslides have worsened the situation and relief efforts, and there are reports that landmines buried during the conflict and not yet removed are in some instances being shifted with the landslides adding the dangers of residents and rescuers.

River still rising

In Serbia, the worst affected area is around the town of Obrenovac, south west of Belgrade, where around 10,000 people are still stranded. Obrenovac is also home to the biggest power plant in Serbia, which is at risk of being flooded, potentially causing disruption of power supply to large parts of the country. Hundreds of officials and volunteers are trying to build banks along the river Sava running through Obrenovac.

A number of National Societies have appeals in relation to the Balkans floods.

While water levels in some rivers are receding, the river Sava and two other rivers are still rising, forecast to reach their peak during Sunday night or later, so the danger is far from over.

Rescue and relief

The Red Cross societies of both countries have been actively engaged in rescue and operation activities, providing relief and helping setting up centers for those evacuated.

The Red Cross of Serbia has a clear and defined role in the national emergency response, and specially trained teams – as well as thousands of staff and volunteers – are assisting with continued evacuations as well as providing relief items.

The Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina have mobilized multipurpose teams in the affected areas, and staff and volunteers are assisting authorities with evacuations as well as providing blankets, mattresses, drinking water, food and hygiene kits, rubber boots and water purifiers to more than 10,000 people. These figures are expected to rise.

Relief efforts are naturally being hampered by the damaged infrastructure and difficult conditions but both jeeps and boats are being used, while often the volunteers wade through the water to deliver relief items. Many volunteers and their families in both countries are themselves affected by the floods.

In Brcko, one of the worst affected areas, Red Cross volunteers are helping to move sandbags along the River Sava to prevent it from flooding dozens of villages which are still in danger. Thousand of hectares of crops and farmland have been destroyed, meaning many have losthomes and livelihoods.

Facts and figures

These are the latest figures from the region. They are likely to be updated regularly to reflect changes in the operation.


120,000 households have been affected

31,873 people have been evacuated

215 staff are engaged in the response

3,311 volunteers have been mobilized

Bosnia and Herzogovina

100,000 (estimated) affected by floods and landslides

3,000 landslides reported

40,000 people evacuated from their homes

5,000 volunteers and 250 staff on active duty


15,000 people evacuated from their homes

2,732 in Red Cross emergency accommodation

500 volunteers from 130 branches active in the response