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Weather

Belgrade braces for flood crest as Balkan death toll grows

Officials in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, have been preparing for the arrival of a flood crest on the River Sava after nearby inundations proved deadly. The floods also caused deaths in neighboring Bosnia and Croatia.

Danger follows Balkan flooding

Emergency service workers in Serbia scrambled to strengthen embankments around the River Sava on Tuesday as the crest of the flood approached.

Officials made the preparations amid fears that the flood tide on the Sava might back up when it meets the larger River Danube in Belgrade. The crest was expected to reach the Serbian capital by late Tuesday or Wednesday.

At least 42 people were reported to have lost their lives after last week's record rains, which caused rivers to swell and swallow homes and farmland.

At least 20 people have been killed in Serbia, 13 of them in the town of Obrenovac, which lies on the Sava, just southwest of Belgrade.

Flooding was particularly bad in Obrenovac because of high water levels the River Kolubara, on which the town also stands. Flooding on that river subsided last Saturday. However, with the main threat now being posed by the Sava, about a third of the population of the town had been moved to safety by Tuesday morning.

Floodwater surges have threatened to inundate the country's main power plant, the Nikola Tesla, which lies near Obrenovac. The coal-fired plant supplies electricity for almost half of Serbia and most of Belgrade.

'Worst rains in over a century'

Some 600,000 of Serbia's 7.2 million people were said to have been affected by "severe floods following the heaviest rains the Balkans have witnessed in 120 years," the UN's world Food Statement said in a statement.

Across the border in northern Bosnia, more then 11,000 people in the communities of Orasje and Bijeljina have been displaced from their homes.

Some 20 people in Bosnia are reported to have been drowned in the flooding, with several others missing.

Hundreds of landslides have posed a further danger in the country, with a threat that landmines from the Bosnian War of the 1990s would be exposed and left behind. There were also concerns about the possible outbreak of disease as temperatures rise, with a lack of fresh water and ground water becoming increasingly polluted.

Croatia reported a second death from the flooding on Tuesday, as the Sava threatened to overrun the eastern city of Slavonski Brod.

rc/tj (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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