The European Union is providing co-ordinated assistance through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism which has been activated at the request of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina because of severe flooding in the two countries, the European Commission (EC) said on May 17.
Twenty people are reported dead and thousands have been evacuated because of the floods resulting from continuous heavy rain that began on May 13.
As of May 17, the water in Bosnia and Herzegovina was slowly declining, but the situation remained complex because of numerous landslides, causing house collapsing and road damage.
State and local authorities are engaged in ongoing evacuation efforts. More than 6000 people have been evacuated so far. It is estimated that more than 50 000 people may be affected by floods and landslides.
In Serbia, at least five people have died after the equivalent of four month’s rainfall fell in just one day. More than 6000 people have been displaced and 300 000 homes are without electricity. Many towns and villages are completely cut off and emergency services are working around the clock to rescue people.
Serbia’s urgent request for high capacity water pumps and operational teams had been channelled through the European Commission’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) and was answered positively within a matter of hours by Bulgaria, Germany, Slovenia and Austria, the EC said.
Thirty-six hours after the Serbian request was made the number of EU countries offering assistance had reached 10, with the Czech Republic, France, Croatia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia joining the relief efforts.
“Arrangements are currently underway for the deployment of rescue boats, high capacity pumps and operational teams in Serbia. Most of the aid will have arrived by tomorrow,” the EC May 17 statement said.
So far, Slovenia, Austria, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Slovakia, Belgium and Germany have responded through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to the request of Bosnia and Herzegovina, offering helicopters and motor boats to support the evacuation of residents and transportation of water, medicines and food. The assistance is underway and transportation costs are being co-financed by the EC.
A seven-member EU Civil Protection Team was being deployed to Serbia on May 17 to liaise with national authorities and the EU Delegation in the country and to facilitate the delivery of the incoming assistance. An EU team of civil protection experts would be deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina on May 18, the EC said.
On the morning of May 17, Bosnia and Herzegovina requested the EU Civil Protection Mechanism for additional assistance as the situation in the country was getting more critical. The ERCC had immediately communicated Bosnia and Herzegovina’s request for pumps, generators, tents, humidity dryers, water purification sets, gas heaters for tents, and sanitation items to EU member states, the EC said.
“I want to send my sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of those who have perished as a result of these terrible floods,” said Kristalina Georgieva, the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.
“In less than a day and a half, 14 of our member states – half the European Union – have responded to calls for assistance from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, mobilising helicopters, boats, pumping modules and expert teams. This is an admirable display of European solidarity and we will keep supporting our neighbours for as long as they need our help.”
The European Commission’s ERCC was in constant contact with both affected countries and with participating states in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, matching the incoming offers for assistance with needs on the ground, the EC said.
On May 15, Serbian deputy prime minister and foreign minister Ivica Dačić said that Serbia now above all needed assistance in equipment, along with rescue teams to save the affected towns and their residents., Serbian news website B92 reported.
He pointed out that another kind of assistance would follow – through the rebuilding and donations. Now, aluminum motor boats, helicopters, blankets and rescue teams are most urgently needed, Dačić added.
“We must save towns and people, and then follows the reconstruction of the country and donations. We’ll need the help of the EU and the UN,”Dačić told the public broadcaster RTS on Saturday.