Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Floods Force Evacuations in Bosnia, Albania

Published December 06, 2010

| Associated Press

TIRANA, Albania -- NATO countries rushed to aid flood-stricken Albanians with helicopters, food and clothing on Monday, while Bosnian authorities appealed for calm as villagers were evacuated from the country's river valleys.

For a whole week, people across Albania, Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro have struggled with a torrent of floods experts have called the worst in a century. In Bosnia, three people were killed over the weekend in a landslide unleashed by heavy rain in the northern town of Tuzla.

Italy delivered 25 tons of food and clothing on Monday for some of the 12,000 people evacuated from flooded areas in northwest Albania after it appealed for help from NATO allies. NATO has also sent five helicopters to assist the Albanian army and police in rescue missions.

"The situation is difficult because of flooding from Shkodra Lake, combined with the banks of several rivers bursting. I fear this effort with be one for the long term," Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha said.

The Bosnian army, police, volunteers and divers have helped evacuate about 3,600 people from their homes in Bijeljina in the country's northeast over the past three days. Rescuers also used boats to deliver food and drinking water to suburbs that had lost electricity, drinking water and phone lines.

Authorities have built dams in Bosnia to stop rivers breaking their banks, but water has instead seeped from underground, flooding vast plains.

In Bijeljina, Police had to separate two arguing groups after a village discussion boiled over into violence on Sunday as those in favor of releasing pressure on a dam by tearing it down fought with those who wanted it to remain.

Aleksandar Dzombic, a minister in the regional government, appealed for calm on Monday.

"People should stop making things worse and rather coordinate their actions with the government, or they may endanger evacuation routes for other villages," he said.

Authorities in Serbia and Montenegro also had to evacuate thousands of people, but reported Monday that the situation is improving.

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