December 17, 2014
Towns, power plants menaced by floodings in the Balkans
Communities in Serbia and Bosnia battled to protect towns and power plants today from rising flood waters and landslides that have devastated swathes of both countries and killed dozens of people.
Receding waters in some of the areas worst-hit by the heaviest rainfall in the Balkans since records began 120 years ago revealed scenes of devastation - twisted homes, fallen trees and rotting animals.
Authorities in Bosnia estimated some 500,000 people had been evacuated or left their homes, the kind of human displacement not seen since the country's 1992-95 war. The discovery of a body in the north of the country on Monday raised the regional death toll to at least 38.
At least 25,000 people have been evacuated in Serbia.
The River Sava, swollen by a new flood wave from Croatia a day after the rain finally stopped, continued to threaten parts of northern Bosnia and western Serbia, including Serbia's biggest power plant 30 km southwest of the capital, Belgrade.
Soldiers and energy workers worked through the night to build barriers of sandbags to keep the water back from the site and from a second complex, the Kostolac coal-fired plant, east of Belgrade.
Hundreds of volunteers in the capital filled sandbags and stacked them along the banks of Sava. Police issued an appeal for more bags.
The plant covers roughly half of Serbia's electricity needs. Parts were already shut down as a precaution, and it would have to be powered down completely if the waters breached the defences.
Other EPS officials also said they believed the plant was out of danger, but there was concern for the Kolubara coal mine that supplies it.
Hundreds of landslides have caused havoc, particularly in mountainous Bosnia, where the Sava has devastated farmland that is a mainstay of the economy.
The river continued to overwhelm ad hoc flood defences both there and in Serbia.