Balkan Flooding: Worst Torrential Disaster in Region’s Recorded History

Monumental flooding from three months worth of rain falling a in few days in Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Croatia has caused more than 40 deaths and the evacuation of more than 500,000 people.  There are also concerns that thousands of people are trapped in buildings without power or communication.


In the largest amount of flooding since the country started maintaining records 120 years ago, the River Sava has reached 6.3 meters (20.7 feet) and has flooded the town of Obrenovac, approximately 35 kilometers (22.7 miles) southwest from the capital of Belgrade.  Near Obrenovac is the Nikola Tesla power plant complex that supplies nearly half of the country with coal-generated electricity.  The flooding threatens to leave millions of people in Serbia without power.  Along the river’s path, residents of another 11 towns have been ordered to evacuate. Along the Danube River, a thermal power plant in Kostolac that supplies 20% of the nation’s power also confronts significant water damage, and workers are attempting to protect it with sandbags.  An estimated 300,000 people are without safe drinking water and electricity.  

serbia map


The northeastern part of the country is the most affected, and approximately one-third of Bosnia has submerged homes, roads, and railway lines.  Over 100,000 homes have been destroyed.  The rains have also caused more than 3,000 landslides that are making the rescue and response operations even more difficult.  In addition, nearly 120,000 unexploded landmines that are buried in more than 9,400 carefully marked minefields are being dislodged due to the floods, and these resurfacing landmines pose a grave danger to displaced people and rescue workers.

Bosnia map

Ongoing Updates

For updates from the International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) go to here.

For updates from ReliefWeb go to here.

Preparation & Response

The US Government provides information on how to prepare and respond to major flood events.

  • Before a flood:
    • Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
    • Avoid building in a floodplain unless you elevate and reinforce your home.
    • Elevate the furnace, water heater and electric panel in your home if you live in an area that has a high flood risk.
    • Consider installing “check valves” to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
    • If feasible, construct barriers to stop floodwater from entering the building and seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds.
  • During a flood:
    • Listen to the radio or television or use the internet for information.
    • If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground and do not wait for instructions to move.
    • Be aware of streams, drainage channels, canyons and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without typical warnings such as rain clouds or heavy rain.
    • If you must prepare to evacuate, you should do the following:
      • Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move essential items to an upper floor.
      • Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
    • If you have to leave your home, remember these evacuation tips:
      • Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
      • Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground.  You and the vehicle can be swept away quickly.  If your vehicle is trapped in rapidly moving water, stay in the vehicle. If the water is rising inside the vehicle, seek refuge on the roof.
      • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams, rivers or creeks, particularly during threatening conditions.
  • After a flood:
    • Use local alerts and warning systems to get information and expert informed advice as soon as available.
    • Avoid moving water.
    • Stay away from damaged areas unless your assistance has been specifically requested by police, fire, or relief organization.
    • Emergency workers will be assisting people in flooded areas. You can help them by staying off the roads and out of the way.
    • Play it safe. Additional flooding or flash floods can occur. Listen for local warnings and information. If your car stalls in rapidly rising waters, get out immediately and climb to higher ground.
    • Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
    • Roads may still be closed because they have been damaged or are covered by water. Barricades have been placed for your protection. If you come upon a barricade or a flooded road, go another way.
    • If you must walk or drive in areas that have been flooded.
      • Stay on firm ground. Moving water only 6 inches deep can sweep you off your feet. Standing water may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
      • Flooding may have caused familiar places to change. Floodwaters often erode roads and walkways. Flood debris may hide animals and broken bottles, and it’s also slippery. Avoid walking or driving through it.
    • Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
    • Stay out of any building if it is surrounded by floodwaters.
    • Use extreme caution when entering buildings; there may be hidden damage, particularly in foundations.

For a quick reference guide from FEMA go here.

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