Bulgaria calls for calm as Danube water levels rise
While it is expected that the Bulgarian section of the Danube River will rise to critical levels in coming days, people living nearby should remain calm because all possible protective steps have been taken, Bulgarian authorities said.
The levels of the Danube are being closely monitored after the record floods that hit Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, leading to a reported 40 deaths and millions of euro in damage.
The head of Bulgaria’s Irrigation Systems, Dimitar Metodiev, said that preventative measures had been taken, 21 drainage pumping stations were working and “people are at their workplaces around the clock,” according to a report by public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio on May 20 2014.
Metodiev said that “all pump stations are operating normally,” but said “those that do not work, it is because for three years funds have not been allocated. We have areas where we are not prepared”.
“The population along the Danube must be calm, all measures have been taken. We must admit that there are places where the levees are old. Once the law is changed and we have resources for this year , we will begin a phased reinforcement at these locations. At this point there is no danger of breaking levees,” he said .
According to Metodiev, some of the 15 million leva allocated to Irrigation Systems had been used to pay for drainage operations and some had been used to pay old debts.
In all, there are 254km of levees along the Bulgarian part of the Danube.
From Rousse, television station bTV said on May 20 that a fishing village had been cut off from the city and some fields were underwater. Farmers feared for their harvests, the report said.
Tsvetlin Yovchev, interior minister in the Bulgarian Socialist Party cabinet, visited the town of Vidin on May 19 to inspect the situation and said that “there was no danger to the public and all measures had been taken,” the report said.
On May 19, Serbian prime minister Aleksandar Vučić said that “it is difficult to talk about material damages from the flooding at present,” but that it is assumed that it will “exceed hundreds of millions of euro, and according to some estimates, perhaps even one billion euro,” Serbian news site B92 reported.
“In rebuilding the country we will have to rely on aid from abroad, because we have to build a lot of roads, bridges, renew infrastructure, and it will not be easy, said the Serbian prime minister.
About a quarter of Bosnia-Hercegovina’s four million people are without clean water after the worst flooding since modern records began, the foreign minister has said, the BBC reported.
Zlatko Lagumdzija said the destruction was “terrifying” and compared it to Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.
On May 19, the European Commission said that the European Union was 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 the severe flooding in the two countries.
A total of 15 EU member states offered assistance such as motor boats, helicopters and pumps and deployed more than 300 relief workers to the two countries.
Two EU Civil Protection teams have been sent to Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to help with the co-ordination of relief efforts.
Bulgaria, Germany, Slovenia, Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Croatia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia and Denmark have offered rescue boats, high capacity pumps and operational teams to Serbia.
Austria, Slovenia, Luxembourg, the UK, Belgium and Germany responded to the request of Bosnia and Herzegovina for rescue and evacuation helicopters and motor boats. Slovakia and the Czech Republic offered generators, sandbags and humanitarian aid kits.
The European Commission is also providing satellite imagery of the flooded areas to the relevant authorities in the two countries and is co-financing the transportation costs of aid.
(Main photo: Bulgarian Interior Ministry press centre)