Balkans continue to count the cost of May 2014 fatal flood disaster

Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia are continuing to count the cost of the century-record floods that inundated much of three Balkans countries in May 2014, with estimates of the collective cost running into billions of euro.

More than two million people were affected by the floods, which resulted from days of torrential rains in mid-May.

In Serbia, the death toll is said to have been 51, and about 18 000 houses were destroyed while further thousands were damaged.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, houses, schools and hospitals were destroyed or damaged and, according to local media, about 20 people died.

Croatia has estimated damage of 65 million euro but, like the other two countries, a final figure could be far off.

On June 1, Serbian deputy prime minister Zorana Mihajlovic said that flood damage to energy, telecommunication, rail and road infrastructure was about 260 million euro. She said that by that point, local government units had reported damage of about 200 million euro, but added that not all units had yet submitted reports.

Speaking to Radio Television Serbia, prime minister Aleksandar Vucic said on May 29 that the total cost of the damage resulting from flooding in Serbia was estimated at a billion euro.

Vuvic pledged that “dynamic reconstruction” would begin within days. He said that 20 per cent of the cost would come from foreign assistance, mainly from the European Union, Russia and Arab countries.

On June 1, Ivica Dacic, Serbia’s foreign minister, said that by May 29 a total of about 15 million euro had come in through donations and other relief assistance.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has said that the economic damage to Serbia and to Bosnia and Herzergovina is “likely to be substantial”.

In an article posted on its website on May 29, the EBRD noted that there no official estimates of the cost of the natural disaster as yet, but some “very rough” preliminary estimates put the damage at about 1.5 to two billion euro in Serbia and about 1.3 billion in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Agriculture had been particularly badly affected and power generation and mining both heavily disrupted.

Current EBRD growth forecasts for 2014 are 1.8 per cent for Bosnia and one per cent for Serbia, and they might need to be revised further downwards, although mitigating factors would
include the size of bilateral and international financial institutions’ support for the relief and reconstruction programmes, which could give a boost to construction and related industries.

On May 27, European Commission President Jose Barroso said that the EU would disburse aid to flood-ravaged Serbia “swiftly” but that it was waiting for Belgrade to submit a damage report before it can sign off the assistance, RFE/RL reported.

“Now it’s up to the authorities of (Serbia) to present the assessment of damage, and the application will be processed swiftly,” Barroso said.

In Croatia, prime minister Zoran Milanovic has given reassurances that no efforts would be spared in bringing the situation in flood-hit east Croatia back to normal.

At the beginning of a cabinet meeting, Milanovic outlined the chronology of what had happened during the recent natural disaster and what had been done to bring the situation under control so far, a statement on the Croatian government website said on May 29.

He reiterated that currently, firefighters and local inhabitants were engaged in cleanup efforts, including the removal of carcasses and flood debris, and that health authorities were taking all measures to prevent epidemic outbreaks, while the power provider HEP was repairing the grid to restore power supplies.

Local residents who cannot come back to their destroyed houses will be provided with accommodation as long as necessary, the Croatian government website said.

Also, the levee in the village of Rajevo Selo, that broke 14 days ago when the River Sava burst its banks, was being mended, according to Milanovic.

On May 29, it was reported that the Red Cross of Croatia (HCK) had collected more than 41 million kuna (almost 5.5 milion euro) to help the population affected by the floods in Croatia, while citizens and numerous institutions and companies were continuing to assist.

Croatian Caritas has so far collected more than two million kuna (263 000 euro) for the victims of the floods, and has sent, from its Intervention Solidarity Fund, a financial aid to Caritas Đakovačko-Osijek and Pozeska diocese and Caritas Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Serbia.

Whether the floods, unprecedented in the region for the past 100 years, will take a toll on the Croatian economy remains to be seen.

Some economic analysts have already come forward with estimates that the floods have affected the Croatian economy to such an extent that it will not be able to generate the much coveted positive rate of economic growth.

Some media are warning that bankruptcy is now a very realistic scenario, when one takes into consideration the increase in state budget deficit caused by the crisis.

– With reporting by the Independent Balkan News Agency.

(Photo: EC ECHO EEAS EU Delegation BiH)



The Sofia Globe staff

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