The death toll of the unprecedented floods in the Balkans was reported at 44 on Sunday while tens of thousands have been evacuated throughout the region. Now, as if the worst flooding in the region’s history weren’t bad enough, displaced Serbians and Bosnians have another troubling threat to concern themselves with: Landmines.
It is estimated that 220,000 landmines are still scattered throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. These were planted in the ‘90s during the Bosnian War. Landslides and raging floods have literally move entire minefields, and where the individual mines end up is anyone’s guess. There has yet to be a death reported from a landmine explosion, though it appears to be imminent.
Serbia has taken the brunt of the more severe damage of the flooding. The capital city of Belgrade had water levels as high as 10 feet in the city streets. The torrential downpour has caused the Sava River to rise to 6.3 meters, the highest level since the country began keeping track 120 years ago. At least 24,300 people have been displaced in Serbia alone.
Authorities are working feverishly to protect the coal-burning power plant in Kostolac. This power facility is considered one of the most important in Serbia, which a government worker claims produces 20 percent of the country’s energy. An estimated 100 million euros will be required for repairs to the power plant. At least 40 percent of the country is still without power.
Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Zeljka Cvijanovic, compared the flood damage to the devastation of the Bosnian War (without nearly as many deaths). Aleksandar Vucic, Prime Minister of Serbia, told a TV station that flooding such as this has not been seen in 1,000 years. The police chief of Doboj likened the floodwaters to a tsunami.
Many affected areas throughout the Balkans are reachable only by boat or helicopter. There is a continuing effort by emergency personnel and volunteers to dam the banks of the Sava with sandbags. From Russia to Israel, about a dozen countries have sent humanitarian aid to the areas affected by the disastrous flooding. The death toll will almost certainly climb, as many of the missing people are presumed dead.