Hello to our friends in the region and around the world. We hope wherever you are, you’re safe. Please send any info, photos, or updates to firstname.lastname@example.org, and check back here for more info about the worst floods to have hit Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia in recorded history.
Saturday, May 24
3:45 AM: Authorities are now telling us to avoid eating fruits and vegetables from flood-affected areas, along with the drinking water. Though they’ve lied at nearly every stage of this disaster, which could have at least been mitigated by heeding the warnings of scientists or putting more money into actual emergency preparedness rather than staging fake blizzard rescue missions for a camera crew before an election, it’s probably a good idea not to consume these items.
Friday, May 23
11:00 PM: Rain is expected across much of the region most affected by flooding in coming days. Let’s hope those sandbags hold.
Thursday, May 22
10:40 PM: Last night, we asked our readers to photoshop the donation info on the excellent poster below from the Serbian government’s official PayPal account info to the Serbian Red Cross — the same organization listed for the other two countries. One of our readers, Adam Burns, came through for us. Here’s the poster, with Red Cross donation info for all countries. Feel free to share! P.S. You can also give to Save the Children – Balkan Flood Relief Fund.
9:15 PM: “When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
5:00 PM: Hotel Obrenovac, in the Serbian city most affected by the floods, was the second largest center for the temporary accommodation of asylum seekers in the country.
Wednesday, May 21
10:50 PM: The Serbian government (i.e. PM Vucic) is terrified of being criticized for its response to the flooding, and rumors abound that media professionals who have dared question the efforts of officials have had their websites or email hacked. We also received suspicious spam at our “tips” address today:
This isn’t an entirely anomalous occurrence, but it does seem rather strange. Thankfully, we’ve spent enough time in the San Francisco Bay Area to know what “spam” looks like, and that only grandmothers would open a link like that. If the Serbian government is going to get inside my computer, it’s going to have to get a little more sophisticated.
Another important thing to point out:
We are asking one of our photoshop-saavy readers to change the donations info for Serbia from the government’s PayPal account to the Serbian Red Cross.
6:30 PM: The latest from Al-Jazeera: “Balkan flood devastation exceeds war damage“.
“Officials in Bosnia said they fear the damage caused by heavy rains and landslides would exceed that caused by the entire Balkan conflict fought between Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats between 1992 and 1995.”
11:00 AM: Many media outlets have cited the shifting of land mines and signs marking mined areas as a significant humanitarian concern. The latest report from ReliefWeb, a service provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), gives the following information:
1) 70% of the flood-affected areas (Doboj, Maglaj, Olovo, Una-Sana Canton, and Brcko) is suspected to contain mines and UXOs; 800 sq/km of areas suspected to contain mines has been affected by the flood disaster;
2) Land mines and mine awareness signs have either moved or been washed away because of landslides and flooding; therefore, there is a high risk that current mine maps will be inaccurate;
3) Mines and UXOs have reportedly been identified in the following:
– Brcko, confirmed mine explosion (no casualties reported);
– Bosanska Krupa,
– Olovo (in particular the road between Olovo and Tuzla)
8:25 AM: “Doboj: Dead City”. Very grim video that nonetheless is probably an indication of what is ahead for much of the region:
7:50 AM: In Bosnia’s Tuzla Canton alone, there have been an estimated 1,500 landslides:
6:45 AM: We received a message from Dr. Emily Click of Harvard Divinity School, “a nonsectarian school of religious and theological studies based within a major research university”. Like the rest of Harvard, it also has an impressive list of alumni, including poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, and a former Greek Orthodox Archbishop.
Dr. Emily Click, assistant Dean at Harvard Divinity School had the following message for the region:
Tuesday, May 20
On May 16, Belgrade mayor Sinisa Mali posted instructions on the city’s official website telling people in Obrenovac not to leave their homes, and later deleted the official posting when the river overflowed and people started dying.
That very same day, the Kolubara river crashed through a levee and covered 90 percent of the town in river water. Several casualties were reported. Obrenovac has been the municipality of Serbia hit hardest by the recent floods. As one of the 17 municipalities that make up the “greater Belgrade” area, Mali’s reassurances of safety as mayor were significant. The instructions were posted on the city of Belgrade’s official website, as “Belgrade Mayor Sinisa Mali’s” own orders. The mayor’s message was brief, but he urged his fellow citizens not to leave their homes in Obrenovac.
After the river came crashing into town, the instructions posted by “Belgrade Mayor Sinisa Mali” were deleted from the city of Belgrade’s official website. He clearly didn’t want a silly mistake like indifference to dent his stellar Belgrade career. But hiding from your past deeds is very difficult these days, and thanks to the internet, a cached version of the post still exists.
Reuters published an article the same day that Mali posted his instructions to the people of Obrenovac. It begins with a description of an apocalyptic scene:
OBRENOVAC, Serbia, May 16 (Reuters) – Boats sailed through the streets of a Serbian town on Friday on a mission to rescue people trapped by rising waters as the worst floods ever recorded swept Serbia and Bosnia. Some residents of Obrenovac, 30 km (20 miles) southwest of the capital Belgrade, were stranded on the roofs of their homes, calling for help. Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said all 25,000 citizens would have to be evacuated.
The municipality of Obrenovac has suffered more displacement and death than anywhere else in the country. Authorities have already acknowledged that 13 people have been killed in the floods, but everyone is bracing for an announcement about the official number of casualties, which is expected to be much higher. It’s also expected that sleaze like Mali will emerge with his career in tact, at least for a little while. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the dead, abandoned, and displaced of Obrenovac.
6:30 AM: There are at least two Facebook pages for people in Croatia who want to offer accommodation to flood evacuees:
6:15 AM: Bosnia and Herzegovina has declared today a day of mourning. Flags will be flown at half-mast, events of an entertaining or cultural nature are prohibited in public spaces, and the media will alter its regular broadcasting. Initially, media reported that only the Federation would take part, but yesterday, officials in Republika Srpska said they would also declare today a day of mourning.
3:30 AM: A reader was kind enough to design this image and send it to us with the following message: “I heard last week about the flooding in Serbia, unfortunately I am living in America and cannot be there to help – but I wanted to send you this. My thoughts are with the Balkan people.” 1:20 AM: “The floods shall sweep corruption clean” – Rudyard Kipling, “The Floods” Yesterday, Nenad Milosavljevic posted an article critical of the Serbian government and its response to the floods online, and shared it with friends. As a result, it appears his site was hacked and the article removed — more than once. Of course, this isn’t the first time Serbian language texts that portray Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic or his allies in a particularly unflattering light have been removed from the internet, as we’ve documented before. Milosavljevic’s censored text criticized the incompetencies of various ministers, including the Minister of Defense, who’s a ceramic sculptor by trade (to be fair, he’s also the owner of a company that sells tea). Vucic was criticized for “posing in a helicopter” for TV cameras while flying over villages submerged in water, and generally using the humanitarian disaster as another useful photo opportunity. Milosavljevic also wrote that he believed citizens and ordinary people had been more heroic than government officials in recent days, a sentiment shared by others in the region. The government was also criticized for its general lack of preparedness. (If you scroll down a bit, you’ll see that we posted about the scientific community’s longstanding awareness about the growing vulnerability of Obrenovac municipality yesterday, as well as its attempts to warn various decision makers about the imminent possibility of mass flooding in the area).
We understand that in the middle of a national (or regional) disaster, setting aside petty differences allows us to work together and achieve our shared goal of helping out those who need it most. At the same time, that does not mean any citizen should lose their right to publicly criticize the ongoing rescue and relief effort. The US federal government’s indifferent non-response to Hurricane Katrina, and the appalling lack of humanitarian assistance provided to the (predominantly) African-American residents of New Orleans, was a deeply shameful moment in American history. The president and his administration appeared untroubled by the fact that innocent hurricane and flood victims were dying in a major US city. But public outcry about the Bush administration’s indifference actually forced America to confront some of its own racism. And that was a conversation that needed to happen, and that needs to continue happening, rather than be shut down by government censors.
Here’s Blind Willie Johnson, a singer and slide guitarist who spent a lot of time in New Orleans:
Monday, May 19
6:30 PM: Earlier today, the Sava also broke through levees in two places in Orašje, Bosnia. Authorities described the situation as “critical”, and Nedad Mimic (@NedadMemic), tweeted that medical personnel are urgently needed.
4:50 PM: A new wave of floodwater is currently threatening the town of Zabrežje in the municipality of Obrenovac in Serbia. The Interior Ministry is ordering an “immediate and total” evacuation of the area. In Serbia, the municipality of Obrenovac has been the hardest hit by the floods that have inundated the Balkans in recent days. Earlier today, the Serbian government issued a statement saying that protection of Kolubara thermal power plant, which is part of the Nikola Tesla thermal power complex, was “its highest priority”. Clearly the municipality of Obrenovac and the Kolubara basin is still highly vulnerable. The government has said it would not issue any official numbers about casualties until it had more information. Zabrežje is surrounded in rivers, including the rising Sava.
8:30 AM: For those of you in the UK, ebritic.com has assembled a list of businesses, individuals, and institutions in cities across the country collecting emergency supplies and donations for people affected by the floods in the Balkans. 2:50 AM: What might make some areas more vulnerable to flooding than others?
We know from various media reports that “three months’ worth of rain fell on the region in three days”, and that this is what caused the massive flooding we’ve seen in Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia. But some areas have been more severely impacted than others. The flooding of the Kolubara river made the municipality of Obrenovac the most devastated area in Serbia: so far, 12 casualties have been reported, and that number is expected to rise. But scientists have long warned that the Kolubara basin, which is located in the municipality of Obrenovac, has grown increasingly vulnerable to “frequent and large scale floods” due to human activities. In the 2012 article “Land Use Changes and Environmental Problems Caused by Bank Erosion: A Case Study of the Kolubara River Basin in Serbia“, scientists Slavoljub Dragicevic, Nenad Zivkovic, Mirjana Roksandic, Stanimir Kostadinov, Ivan Novkovic, Radislav Tosic, Milomir Stepic, Marija Dragicevic and Borislava Blagojevic made several serious observations about Obrenovac’s vulnerability to the kind of heavy flooding we’ve seen in recent days [emphasis ours]:
The scientists concluded in 2012: “No one feels responsible that the population in this area is still left to the mercy of torrential river. Numerous calls for helping endangered people and goods were sent to the different addresses, but no one tried to help. Apparently, the problem goes beyond the ‘values’ of a few villages and the state interest (lignite exploitation) has absolute priority, like in the case of … the unique sources of Obrenovac Municipality.”
8:15 PM: The Serbian government says that the Sava river is now at the greatest danger of flooding, and that a new wave is expected to hit the river, which runs through the capital of Belgrade, on Wednesday, May 21. Photo: The Sava river in the Savamala neighborhood of Belgrade taken at around 2 AM this morning by Balkanist.
3:50 PM: If you’re looking for missing friends or relatives in Serbia, a website, nestale.poplave.rs, has been set up to post and share information.
3:15 PM: The floods spread. Gunja, Croatia, a town on the left bank of the Sava river, is now completely underwater. Information from the Croatian Red Cross. Photo from Twitter: @15422R 3:10 PM: The German Foreign Office says that technical teams and experts have arrived in the region to provide assistance. More are being coordinated and are on their way.
3:00 PM: We’re back after a late morning, a day spent running around, and very little sleep. A reader from the Dutch organization Stichting Dierenopvang Bosnie, which helps stray dogs in Bosnia, asked us to provide information to our readers who may be interested in donating to rescue animals stranded or otherwise affected by the floods. They have been around for several years, and if you want you can contact them at email@example.com. “We are supporting many volunteers who are trying to rescue as much as possible. If people want to donate, here’s how they can: NL59 INGB 00094 746 94 BIC : INGBNL2A Stichting Dierenopvang Bosnie If possible people can mention Floods, so we know it is meant to support the situation they are currently in! We need to help as much as possible”
Sunday, May 18
4:45 AM: Serbian broadcaster RTS has published lists of evacuees. In many cases, these people need medicine, and the lists specify the type of medicine they need. Photo from Twitter: @severzolak 4:15 AM: It appears that the town of Janja in Bosnia has also been hit hard by the current flooding. The town is famous for “its river Drina and little river Janja”. Many displaced persons from elsewhere in Bosnia live there. Photo from Twitter: @DraganaMrkaja Photo from Twitter: @sejlala “Janja before & after”
3:45 AM: Eyewitness and media reports indicate that Svilajnac, a town and municipality in central Serbia, is “destroyed”. Vojislav Nedeljkovic (@VojaNedeljkovic) tweeted: “there is very little food or water; there are many elderly and sick, babies and hungry children who have nowhere to go.” Svilajnac is situated on the banks of the river Resava, and borders the river Morava.
Nedeljkovic also shared a photo: 12:10 AM: Another great and secure way to give is through Save the Children’s Balkan Relief Fund.
11:40 PM: The Serbian chapter of the Red Cross says if you want to know if a particular person is on their official list of evacuees, send their name as a direct message (DM) to the Red Cross Serbia Twitter account: @crvenikrstinfo
11:30 PM: Tomorrow at 21:30, there will be free buses from Budva, Montenegro to Serbia for those who wish to volunteer in the relief effort. Contact number in country is: 068/469-810.
11:10 PM: For our readers who wish to donate money to flood victims, we are recommending the International Red Cross. The organization has offices in both countries, and they’re coordinating relief efforts and distributing aid. Here’s information for Serbia and Bosnia.
There will be organized working actions tomorrow, and buses will take volunteers to affected areas.
Below, there’s a list of places accepting donations for those displaced by the flooding: Faculty of Philosophy – from 10:00 to 16:00 every day!!! – Center for the Promotion of Civil Society – Gradačačka bb , near Malaysian bridge (every day except Sunday, during the period 9-15 hours) -Rooms FK Sarajevo ( club room ) – Caritas BK BiH ul Mehmed Beg Kapetanovića Ljubusaka 6 , 10-18 and 24/7 contact 063690456 – Shatro caffe – Bushido Karate Club -Faculty of Islamic Studies – Veterinary Medicine – Pomozi.ba ( Aziz Šaćirbegović 48 , near the robot Hrasno and Azići 12 , Ilidza) Every Red Cross office in the country… call and donate: BH Telekom 090 291 032 – 2,00 KM Eronet 092 890 830 – 1,80 KM mtel 1458 – 1 KM What is urgently needed: – Medicines (paracetamol, antiseptics, anti-diarrhea tablets, disinfectants) – Blankets, clothes, rubber boots, shovels … – Canned food, baby food and bottled water – Flashlights, candles – Hygiene products (soaps, disinfectants, dry wash products…) – Can openers