Flood Damage In Balkans Compared To Destruction From Bosnian War

May 21, 2014
Originally published on May 21, 2014 5:10 pm

Floodwaters are finally receding in parts of Bosnia and Serbia, after six days of the heaviest rainfall there in 120 years.

The deluge of rain caused rivers to flood banks and triggered hundreds of landslides. More than 40 people have been confirmed dead, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced.

Officials in Bosnia are saying the damage is worse and the recovery could cost more than the Bosnian War in the mid-1990s.

Here & Now’s Robin Young talks to Aleksandar Trifunović, editor-in-chief of the media organization Buka, in Bosnia.


  • Aleksandar Trifunović, editor-in-chief of the media organization Buka, in Bosnia.
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Well, floodwaters are finally receding in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia after six days of the heaviest rainfall in 120 years caused rivers to flood and triggered hundreds of landslides. The aerial pictures are incredible: miles of brown water with the tops of buildings sticking out.

The cost could be more than that country's war in the mid-1990s, and many have died. Aleksandar Trifunovic is the editor-in-chief of the media organization Buka. He joins us by Skype from Banja Luka in Northern Bosnia. And Aleksander, we're hearing also that thousands of landmines have been dislodged by the flooding.

ALEKSANDAR TRIFUNOVIC: Yeah, this is true. All our mines from the war now is in the water. That means that thousands and thousands of mines is now sitting in the water near the Balkans, Serbia and Croatia. This is really terrible.

YOUNG: Yeah, well, and we understand 40 people have been confirmed dead. That number is probably going to rise. But also there are thousands, we understand, of dead livestock, very sad, but also what kinds of health issues is this...

TRIFUNOVIC: Health issues, it's really problematic because tens and thousands of people left their homes. That means that they don't have clear water, water to wash hands, to drink, and this is a really absolute disaster. The worst situation is in the town of Shamutz(ph), which is literally underwater. Our state don't have capacity to fight this kind of disaster. But what is the most important thing that ordinary people, helping each other, regardless of their ethnic background, which gives as much hope in these difficult times. That means that people really support each other.

That means that it's really something positive, if you can talk something positive, about this situation, that people really, really support each other without any kind of question.

YOUNG: So you're saying the government, or the people are doing terrific in working with each other, especially given the very recent ethnic conflicts, but that the government just can't handle this. So what do you want to see happen? Because we understand the agricultural heart of the country has been devastated with this flooding.

As we mentioned, animals, which are - people depend on are dead, and by the way, polluting now as their carcasses just rot. It's just terrible. If the government can't handle this, what do you think needs to happen?

TRIFUNOVIC: The flooded areas are our main agriculture producers. And now all the plants, fields, have been destroyed, which means we can expect several economic rises after this. And we need support from the international community, but we are not getting enough attention in the international media.

I think this is really a big problem. This is in Europe the biggest crisis in Europe in the past, I don't know, 20 years.

YOUNG: Well, it would seem so, looking at these pictures. People there are probably just struggling to keep their head above water, literally. But are people talking about this being, you know, a new normal? We're getting all the climate change reports coming out about where to expect these catastrophes. Are people worried that this isn't just a one-off, one every 120 years, but that this is perhaps the future?

TRIFUNOVIC: Now is the biggest question is how we survive this crisis. And we don't have capacity to protect us for some situation in the future, that that means that people have fear. And I think that we can expect some change in demography rate, that people want to move on from the position in, for example, this small town and try to begin life in some new cities, new houses because some of these places you cannot imagine in your life, believe me. This is terrible.

We have some villages who absolutely disappeared.

YOUNG: That's Aleksandar Trifunovic. He's the editor-in-chief of the media organization Buka in Bosnia. Talking about that flooding there, terrible flooding. Aleksandar, thanks so much.

TRIFUNOVIC: Thank you, thank you very much, and I send really warm regards to your listeners.

YOUNG: Well, best of luck to you.


YOUNG: So a fear of a new normal there in Bosnia. You're listening to HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.