ShelterBox assesses need in Serbia after flooding

by ShelterBox | @ShelterBox | ShelterBox
Thursday, 29 May 2014 12:14 GMT

OBRENOVAC, SERBIA. MAY 2014. Rade Milosevic (far right), Head of Emergency Management at Serbia's Interior Ministry, explains the scale of the flooding in Obrenovac to response team volunteer Torstein Nielsen (left). (Colin Bradbury/ShelterBox)

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A ShelterBox response team is in Serbia assessing the need for emergency shelter and other aid following last week's flooding. Latest estimates are that almost 32,000 people have been evacuated across Serbia, with 1.6 million out of the country's 7.2 million population affected.

The response team has visited sports centres, university buildings and trade fair halls, which have been pressed into service as temporary evacuation centres for some of the 25,000 residents of Obrenovac. The town, situated 30km south west of Belgrade, was inundated in the early hours of 15 May when the nearby River Sava burst its banks. The population fled, leaving possessions and livestock behind as a wall of water swept through the streets with little or no warning.

Response team members Torstein Nielsen and Colin Bradbury travelled to Obrenovac itself where emergency services are working around the clock to pump water out of the streets.

‘Large parts of the town remain submerged under up to four metres of water and a tour of the areas where levels have subsided revealed the extent of the damage,’ said Colin.

‘Houses, shops and cars are waterlogged’

‘Houses, shops and cars are waterlogged and the large quantity of dead livestock means that there is a threat of disease with the arrival of hot weather,’ added Torstein.

The team met with several key officials including Rade Milosevic, Head of Emergency Management at Serbia's Interior Ministry. Mr. Milosevic explained the logistical challenges facing his teams and said it was not yet possible to estimate what proportion of the town's houses have been destroyed since many areas remained inaccessible. With power, fresh water and sewerage services all damaged and the need for a long clean-up process once drainage has been completed, there is no way of saying how long it will be before the population is able to return to their town.

ShelterBox looking for best options to help

ShelterBox is now looking at the best options for providing assistance both in the Belgrade region and elsewhere. In the next few days, Torstein and Colin are travelling to more remote regions outside the capital to check on the situation there.

‘We have reports of significant damage from flooding and landslides in towns and villages up to 200km from Belgrade,’ said Colin. ‘But information is sketchy so we need an on-the-ground assessment of possible shelter needs.’

ShelterBox’s response in Serbia so far is thanks to the charity’s partners in the local Rotary community who are providing transport, translation and, most importantly, local knowledge and contacts with officials at all levels of government and the emergency services.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Meanwhile another ShelterBox response team is continuing with emergency aid assessments in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, where flooding has also affected communities.