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Floods in the Balkans. EUFOR Althea and the Slovenian army lend a hand (Maj)


An Austrian EUFOR Althea helicopter in a rescue operation in Zenica (credit: EUFOR Althea)
An Austrian EUFOR Althea helicopter in rescue intervention in Zenica (credit: EUFOR Althea)

(BRUSSELS2) It is a state of emergency for EUFOR Althea. The European military mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina launched rescue operations on Friday (16 May) in support of the Bosnian army, following the flooding in the country. Bosnia-Herzegovina, like Serbia (also affected), requested European assistance, with reinforcements in “motor boats” and “helicopters”. The European civil protection mechanism has been triggered.

Rescue conditions delayed by bad weather

Air rescue operations could only begin at midday this Friday due to low visibility, EUFOR Althea was told. THE " low clouds did not provide sufficient visibility for flight operations. (...) Two helicopters took off at noon. And, 20.000 liters of fuel were lent by the mission to the helicopters of the Bosnian armed forces. » At 17 p.m., he added in another press release received by B2, at the end of the afternoon “ four helicopters (Austrian) were mobilized, operating in the areas of Zenica, Maglaj, Tuzla and Samac. They came to the aid of dialysis patients, a pregnant woman and others in serious emergencies.” The operations go "continue, according to the request of the Ministry of Security" he assures. most “important to us is to save lives and support the population in emergency situations ". 130 soldiers and their vehicles stand ready on standby at Camp Butmir to be able to intervene and provide assistance if this requires ».

A serious natural disaster situation

The torrential rains, which began on May 13, continued on the field on Friday. The state of damage is significant, it is specified in Sarajevo. Roads are blocked. Entire areas are without electricity and water supply and mobile networks are cut. “Several landslides” took place and bridges are destroyed in the country. The mission was also affected by weather conditions: the liaison and observation teams' house in Doboj was flooded. 

The Bosnian army mobilized

Six Armed Forces helicopters are in intervention, mainly between Maglaj – Doboj – Doboj Jug, specifies the Ministry of Defense in Sarajevo. PMore than 650 soldiers, 80 vehicles, 36 boats, two buses, engineering vehicles, trucks and ambulances are also mobilized.

The Slovenian army and civil defense in support

The Slovenes, for their part, sent two rescue teams this Friday (May 16), one to Serbia, with two pumps and 19 members of civil protection, the other to Bosnia-Herzegovina with two units with the rescue boats and 12 members of the Civil Protection, a Slovenian Armed Forces helicopter and a police helicopter. In Serbia, according to information from the Serbian civil protection, three people died. And the pPrecipitations, in progress since May 12, are expected to continue with high intensity until Saturday night, according to the Slovenian weather forecast.

(Updated Sat. May 17) The 4 EUFOR helicopters carried out 72 flights, evacuating 291 people, the mission reported Saturday morning. 3 trucks transported food and water for the Red Cross during the night in the Maglaj region.

(Updated Sun. May 18) 11 mission trucks were loaned to the UK surge team to transport equipment from Tuzla airport to affected areas of Bijeljina. By sunset on May 17, there were 782 people evacuated during 155 air flights.

(Updated Monday May 19) The death toll could rise. Some media speak of 30 deaths in Serbia, an unverified figure. A helicopter from the European rule of law mission EULEX was also made available to the Serbian police forces. And a convoy of trucks and vehicles from the mission, carrying ration meals, liters of water, beds and sleeping bags arrived in Belgrade on May 18, says a press release from the mission.

(Loreline Merelle with Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Loreline Merelle

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