Date: Wed 28 Nov 2014
From: Sebastian Pleko <> [edited]

In the last 17 weeks, there were a total of 511 cases [of measles], and in some areas, the number of cases is rising exponentially. The outbreak is also spreading to new areas inside the country. Most of the cases (54 percent) were not vaccinated or were partially vaccinated (15 percent), mainly due to the war in the 1990s.

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Date: Wed, 21 May 2014 18:38:05 +0200 (METDST)

SARAJEVO, May 21, 2014 (AFP) - A landmine dislodged by devastating floods in the Balkans exploded in Bosnia, officials said Wednesday, hurting no one but highlighting the dangers of a huge clean-up operation as governments began counting the costs.   The device, one of an estimated 120,000 mines left over from the 1990s Yugoslav wars, went off overnight in the Brcko district of northern Bosnia, the national Mine Action Centre (MAC) said.   A fridge containing nine explosive devices was also found in a flooded garden, it said. Other dangerous finds included a rocket launcher and a large plastic bin full of bombs and ammunition, also thought to date from the 1992-95 war.   "Some mines are made of plastic and they float like plastic plates," said Fikret Smajis from the MAC. "But even those made of iron... can be easily washed away."   Visiting NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in Sarajevo the alliance was ready to help Bosnia as many member states have already sent helicopters and special expert teams to the country.   "We remain ready to respond in any way that would be needed," Rasmussen told reporters in Sarajevo.

Water from the worst floods in more than a century, which have killed 51 people and forced the evacuation of almost 150,000 people in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia, has started to recede in some areas.   But the situation remained tense in both in Serbia and northeast Bosnia in the wake of days of torrential rain in southeast Europe last week that caused the river Sava and its tributaries to burst their banks.   "The river Sava is still threatening," said Blaz Zuparic, an official in the Bosnian town of Orasje pinning its hopes on a six-kilometre (four-mile) wall of sandbags.   "The damage is so huge that the region will take more than 10 years to recover," he said.   "Only God can help us to hold on."   In Belgrade, where the Sava flows into the Danube, volunteers have been working around the clock to erect a wall of sandbags 12 kilometres (seven miles) long.   "We are expecting a peak this Wednesday, and again on Friday. If that passes we will be able to say that we have protected Belgrade," mayor Sinisa Mali said.
   - Unbearable stench -  
Serbia's Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said the death toll in the country has risen to 27.   "This is already a huge number of victims," Vucic said.   More than 1.6 million people in the region have been affected. In Bosnia, a quarter of the 3.8 million population is without safe drinking water.    Vast tracts of farmland are still under water, large areas are without power and many towns and villages remain deluged and difficult to access. The death toll may yet rise as more bodies are found.

Authorities have warned of a risk of epidemics as drowned farm animals rot, and efforts by health experts and the army to recover the bloated carcasses have been hampered.   "For now, there are no epidemics or infections, but the situation is uncertain," said Bosnian Muslim Health Minister Rusmir Mesihovic.   Serbian health officials were also spraying against mosquitoes, according to the Public Health Institute.

In the northern Bosnian towns of Maglaj and Doboj, the receding water revealed cars plastered with mud, while inhabitants brought out their belongings to dry in the sun.   Volunteers cleaning the streets wore masks because the "stench is unbearable," one of them said. On every street corner, signs urged passersby to: "Keep masks on."   Plastic bags were hanging in trees 10 metres (30 feet) above the ground, showing how high the water level had risen.   In Croatia, the agriculture ministry also appealed to people to give homes to the "large number" of household pets separated from their owners by the floods.
   - Counting the cost -  
Preliminary estimates in Serbia indicate that the cost for cleaning up will far exceed 0.64 percent of the country's total economic output, the level at which a country can request European Union aid.   Vucic said the bill could be as high as one billion euros ($1.4 billion), with bridges and 3,500 kilometres of roads damaged.   "Only the EPS (Serbia's state-run electricity) company will suffer damages of more than 250 million euros," Vucic said after talks with visiting European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) president Suma Chakrabarti.   "We will do as much as we can to help this region... The first thing is to have a good sense of needs in terms of reconstruction," Chakrabarti said.   UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that people "urgently need drinking water, food, tents, and medical supplies" and that the UN "stands ready to mobilize further humanitarian support if needed".
Date: Tue, 20 May 2014 11:12:03 +0200 (METDST)
by Aleksandra NIKSIC

BELGRADE, May 20, 2014 (AFP) - The Balkans were on alert Tuesday as swollen rivers were due to reach new peaks after days of devastating floods and landslides that have claimed at least 49 lives.   More than 1.6 million people have been affected by flooding of the river Sava and its tributaries while tens of thousands of hectares of farmland have been inundated and many houses and buildings destroyed or damaged.   These are the worst floods the central European region has suffered in a century.   In Bosnia, where more than 100,000 people have been evacuated in the worst exodus since its 1992-1995 war, thousands of volunteers were struggling to reinforce dikes along the Sava river.

Bosnia declared a day of mourning for the country's 24 dead while health authorities began disinfecting flooded areas as temperatures rise above 22 degrees Celsius (71.6 Fahrenheit) in a bid to prevent diseases from spreading.   "We will face a major fight against epidemics and infectious diseases which are inevitable after such floods," said top Bosnian official Nermin Niksic.   Bosnian Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija said more than a quarter of the country's population of 3.8 million "has been affected by the floods" after the heaviest rainfalls on record began last week.   "Right now, more than one million people have no (clean) water," he said.   In Serbia, where the Sava has already caused unprecedented havoc in the north-western region bordering Bosnia and Croatia, thousands of volunteers were putting up fresh dykes along its banks.

- Threat of more floods -
Weather officials warned the Sava would rise further on Wednesday, threatening higher levels of the massive Danube as the Sava flows into it in the Serbian capital Belgrade.   In Belgrade, volunteers have placed some 12 kilometres (seven miles) of sandbags to prevent flooding of the Serbian capital.   In Obrenovac, one of the most affected towns in Serbia, rescuers have managed to contain the waters around the Nikola Tesla power plant which produces 50 percent of the country's electricity.

In Serbia, more than 30,000 people have been evacuated so far from the areas affected by floods, including nearly 13,600 in the region of Obrenovac, or half its population.   Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told a government meeting that so far 14 deaths have been registered in Obrenovac alone, with autopsy results showing half of them drowned.    "We have been affected ten times more then the other countries in the region, but I hope the toll would not show that," Vucic said.   The death toll from the floods in the region rose to at least 49 Tuesday, with Vucic saying the latest two victims were found in Obrenovac.    Landslides claimed at least one victim in Serbia and one in Bosnia.

Health authorities have ordered inhabitants not to return to their homes until the areas are cleared from debris and safe from disease.   "We have to react properly to avoid an even worse catastrophe, to avoid infectuous diseases," Serbian Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar told state TV RTS.   Tonnes of dead animal carcasses have already been taken from farms for destruction, but muddy areas and landslides have slowed down their collection.   Dozens of towns and villages have been cut off and over 2,000 landslides already reported, with water levels expected to continue rising in the coming days.   Neighbouring Croatia has also evacuated thousands of people from along the river Sava.

- Threat of mines -
In a potentially deadly side-effect, officials in Bosnia warned on Monday that some 120,000 unexploded mines left over from the Balkan war of the 1990s could be dislodged and moved.    "Water and landslides have possibly moved some mines and taken away mine warning signs," Sasa Obradovic, an official of Bosnia's Mine Action Centre told AFP.   He warned residents to be "extremely cautious when they start cleaning their houses, land or gardens as the remaining mud could hide mines and other explosive devices brought by rivers."
Date: Sun, 18 May 2014 16:07:08 +0200 (METDST)
by Katarina SUBASIC

BELGRADE, May 18, 2014 (AFP) - Thousands of people crammed into boats and army trucks fled their homes in Serbia and Bosnia Sunday after record rainfall turned the Sava river into a deadly torrent and caused the worst floods in more than a century.   According to officials in both countries, the disaster has killed at least 44 people. Some towns have been completely cut off and rescue teams feared the worst as improving weather allowed them to move in.

Some 10,000 people have been evacuated so far from the worst affected areas of northern Bosnia. In the town of Samac, hundreds of stranded residents were waiting to be rescued.   "We sent rescue teams into a part of the city we had not been able to access so far. They are entering those areas fearing what they might discover," Mayor Samo Minic told reporters.   The worst rainfall since records began in the late 19th century caused landslides that brought more destruction and also prompted a landmine warning.   Bosnia's demining agency said residents around the towns of Doboj, Maglaj and Olovo -- which saw fierce fighting during the war in the 1990s -- should be particularly wary.

Twenty of the 27 deaths recorded in Bosnia occurred in Doboj while on the other side of the Sava river, in Serbia, at least 16 bodies were found.   In the town of "Obrenovac alone we recovered 12 corpses," Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said, bringing the toll in Serbia to 16.   "Unfortunately there are estimates that the death toll will be higher," he said.   Croatia has also confirmed one casualty, as a result of bad weather that engulfed much of central and parts of eastern Europe at the weekend.   Ukraine emergencies ministry said electricity had been cut to about 100 villages in the north and west because of heavy rains and winds but that no casualties had been reported.
   -- Once in 1,000 years --  
In the Serbian capital Belgrade, dozens of schools and sport centres were turned into shelters for the thousands of evacuees plucked the disaster zones by boats, buses and helicopters.   Thousands of volunteers worked through the night to stack sandbags along the banks of the Sava river in Belgrade, expecting a "flooding wave".   Mayor Sinisa Mali said he was confident any swelling of the Danube tributary could be contained but there was still concern further up river.   "The biggest problem is still along the Sava river. An evacuation is under way in Sremska Raca. In other areas it's getting better," Vucic said.   "What happened to us happens once in a thousand years, not hundred but thousand years," he said.

Humanitarian aid, technical equipment and teams from Russia, the European Union, the United States and neighbouring Montenegro and Macedonia were pouring in, authorities said.   Expressing his gratefulness to all foreign countries for the aid, Vucic said Serbia now needed "food, baby food, diapers, all kind of clothes, medicaments, bottled water, disinfection and hygienic resources."   Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic, in Rome where he has reached the final of the Rome Masters, on Saturday posted an appeal for "support and solidarity for my people in Serbia!" on his Facebook page, where he has more than four million followers.
Date: Sat, 17 May 2014 17:27:22 +0200 (METDST)
by Aleksandra NIKSIC

BELGRADE, May 17, 2014 (AFP) - The heaviest rains in more than a century have sparked floods across Bosnia and Serbia, claiming at least 16 lives and leading to the evacuation of some 15,000, officials said Saturday.   "Six bodies were found in the northern Bosnian town of Doboj after floods started to withdraw from the streets. Unfortunately, this is probably not the final toll," Milorad Dodik, president of Serb-run entity in Bosnia, told reporters.

Another victim drowned in the town of Samac after falling from some stairs, police chief Gojko Vasic was quoted by Fena news agency as saying.   And the bodies of two elderly women were found in the town of Maglaj after the waters withdrew, the civil protection chief there told reporters.   Four victims were found in Bosnia and three in Serbia on Friday.    In Serbia, "rescuers have started recovering dead bodies from flooded areas, but we will not make the number public before the complete withdrawal of the water," Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told reporters.   More than 15,000 people have been evacuated from a number of towns throughout Serbia.

Hardest hit was the town of Obrenovac, some 30 kilometres (20 miles) north of Belgrade, where all 20,000 residents were being evacuated amid warnings of further flooding, Predrag Maric of the emergency services said.   Reporters were banned from entering the town, but a local television channel broadcast footage from a helicopter showing that most parts of the city were flooded, with water swamping the lower floors of six-storey buildings.   Water defences gave way outside Obrenovac near a power plant that produces about half of Serbia's electricity, prompting authorities to urge citizens to limit their use of electricity.

Some 95,000 homes in Serbia and 60,000 in Bosnia had no power at all, authorities said.   Maric urged citizens and companies to provide humanitarian aid.   Sirens wailed in the nearby town of Baric as police ordered its some 7,000 inhabitants to evacuate.    An AFP photographer saw military and police helicopters evacuating women and children, while many people were leaving the town by car. Others could be seen walking towards buses carrying basic belongings.
   - 'Floods carried everything' -  
Belgrade has opened 13 centres to accept thousands of evacuees.   In a Belgrade sport centre turned into a shelter, some 400 people sat on improvised beds, recounting their rescues.   Svetlan Joksimovic, 74, said he was forced to leave as "floods were carrying everything."    "I do not know what happened to my cattle, I released the animals so they could swim," he told AFP in despair.

Danka Kistovic said a neighbour pulled her out of her flooded house using a rope.   "I couldn't move anywhere, water flooded everything. I couldn't go out any other way, so a neighbour came to me and put a rope around my waist, pulling me slowly towards their terrace where rescuers picked me up later," she told AFP.   A rescuer said teams were evacuating people even from upper floors that had been flooded.    Many people were unable to track their family members since the authorities had not had time to compile lists of those evacuated.
   - Volunteers set up flood defences -  
Thousands of volunteers from Belgrade, Novi Sad and other towns went overnight to help set up flood defences in the western town of Sabac, where the Sava river has risen well above historic levels following the worst rains since records began in the late 19th century.   "Dozens of other cities throughout Serbia were devastated by floods," Maric said.   Over the border in Bosnia, local authorities have begun evacuating five villages around the eastern town of Bjeljina, which has also lost electricity.

In the region of Zenica a number of villages were cut off so rescuers, including from neighbouring Croatia and Slovenia, were using some 15 helicopters to evacuate people. Landslides destroyed dozens of homes.   The European Commission said 14 EU countries were sending aid including helicopters and motorboats, as well as food and medicine, to Bosnia and Serbia.    Downstream in Croatia, officials were on high alert amid fears that the Sava will overflow and flood the east of the country.   Both Vucic and Dodik expressed gratitude for the rescue teams and equipment sent by Russia and several EU states.
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