Balkans suffering through another round of flooding

15/08/2014

International and regional co-operation is needed for flood relief and prevention, officials and experts say.

By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 15/08/14

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Floods rage through Banja Luka this month. [Mladen Dragojlovic/SETimes]

A summer of flooding, torrential rain and damaging hail in southeast Europe is keeping relief organisations and volunteers busy as the region works together to overcome a series of damaging weather events.

A new round of flooding this month killed at least two people, damaged hundreds of homes, blocked numerous roads and destroyed crops throughout the region. Among the victims were Milos Djuric, who drowned in the basement of his home Banja Koviljaca, close to the Serbian city of Loznica and a few kilometres from the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). There were also two reports of floodwaters sweeping cars away in the Banja Luka region of Republika Srpska in BiH, killing one person. Two others were missing.

Many roads in the Zenica-Doboj Canton of BiH were damaged by floods and landslides. The military helped clear roads in the village of Zeljezno Polje. In Croatia, 60 landslides were reported in Karlovac, causing traffic jams and threatening the stability of houses, public and commercial buildings.

According to Rade Popadic, founder of the Crometeo.hr portal, flooding this year is being caused by frequent incursions of moist air from the west of the continent. He said that some regions saw more rain in a single day than is normally received in six months.

The flooding puts a greater emphasis on the importance of regional co-operation, officials said.

"We need help since we do not have capacities to face huge catastrophes as those are alone. Even if there is a will as it is, there are no expertise and knowledge. People here still do not know how to act in such situations," Milan Jovanovic, director at Belgrade based Forum for Security and Democracy, told SETimes.

"The army is the only one who has capacities to deal with emergency situations but it is not its main purpose, and it is not for frequent engagement since its first and second purposes are state defence and participation in international peace operations. Assistance to civilians in emergency situations is third," he said.

"The international community can help develop capacities for prevention and reaction in emergencies, but it has to be present constantly and to work with local representatives. This is the only way to avoid damage as we had in May," Jovanovic added.

Zoran Sormaz, MP in the Serbian parliament and member of its boards for foreign affairs, EU integration and control of security services, said floods are a confirmation that Serbia has to work to become an EU member.

"Rare are those who are able to defend from natural disasters on their own. Rare are those who have own capacities to react in short time on floods, fire and so on… Regional co-operation in this field is great and aid is welcome and important but not enough very often because no one in the entire region is economically stable and strong enough. Because of this, EU integration is necessary. It is very important to be a part of a big system like the EU because that system is a guarantee of help and prevention," Sormaz told SETimes.

He underlined the role of the army in the emergency situation as well, as that it is lacking equipment and funds.

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"The army is the main support for all in the emergencies and it shows that we can count on it," he said.

Veseljko Elez, acting director at RS civil protection, told SETimes that this year's floods show the importance of local and regional co-operation on prevention. "If we want to speak about co-operation, we must speak about prevention. That is the right field for co-operation. Statistically, the value of investments in prevention is eight to 10 times smaller than value of reconstruction after floods," Elez said.

Correspondents Mladen Dragojlovic in Banja Luka and Kruno Kartus in Osijek contributed to this report.

How can co-operation among Balkan states help prevent damage and improve emergency response from natural disasters? Add your thoughts in the comment field below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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