Balkans death toll rises to 17 after worst floods in 1,000 years

Belgrade braces itself for a 'flood wave' as more bodies are found.

The death toll in Serbia from the worst flooding seen in 1,000 years had risen to 17 on Sunday as the capital Belgrade braces itself for a "flood wave."

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said 12 bodies were discovered in the town of Obrenovac, 35 kilometres south-west of the capital, amid concerns that more will be found, the state-owned Tanjug newswire reported. The previous official death toll was five.

Thousands of volunteers were piling up sandbags along the banks of Belgrade's Sava River as forecasters warned that by Wednesday water levels could exceed a safe depth by as much as 6 metres. President Tomislav Nikolic said the damage could go into the billions of euros.

"We have a chance to save ourselves," Mr Vucic told a meeting of his cabinet in Belgrade. "We have managed to avoid the biggest catastrophe" after "a rainfall that happens once in a thousand years."

A state of emergency has been in place since May 15, after record rainfall triggered floods that killed at least five people in one day. More than 24,000 others have been evacuated and some 7,000 homes left without electricity, Predrag Maric, the head of the Serbian Interior Ministry's emergencies unit, said.

Russia, the European Union, the US, Turkey and Belarus have sent helicopters, planes, rescue units and life-saving equipment. Donors have been asked to provide canned and baby food, medicines and disinfectants, Mr Vucic said. The government has also mobilised psychologists to assist people at shelters.


Heavy rain initially hit the western parts of Serbia, bordering Bosnia, where six people were found dead. Two were missing in eastern Croatia, state radio also reported.

In Serbia and Bosnia, where more than two million people have been affected, areas were being cleaned and disinfected where receding waters had exposed dead bodies and animals.

The United Nations will send specialised teams to Serbia and "is fully mobilised and stands ready to provide the government with support in coordinating the international emergency assistance," its office in Belgrade said.

The World Bank will consider releasing aid money from its emergency fund to help Serbia recover from the disaster, while Economy Minister Dusan Vujovic said International Monetary Fund had "expressed understanding for the hardship and pressures on the budget resulting from this."

Finance Minister Lazar Krstic told private TV broadcaster Pink that contact had also been made with the European Investment Bank about 30-year loans, and central bank governor Jorgovanka Tabakovic told newspaper Blic the government will organise public works to rebuild towns, roads and rail tracks.