Floods devastate Serbia, thousands evacuated

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(CNN) — Severe flooding across Serbia has prompted the evacuation of at least 16,300 people — including 1,100 whisked away on helicopters — the government said Saturday.

It’s the worst flooding Serbia has seen since the country began keeping records 120 years ago, according to meteorologists.

More than 10,000 troops have been involved in rescue and assistance operations, according to Finance Minister Dusan Vujovic.

The wet weather has also affected neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina, where authorities have declared a state of emergency, according to a government statement. Bosnian authorities say the flooded town of Maglaj received the average rainfall for a two-month period in less than two days.

Speaking at a press conference, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said that the situation in his country is “difficult,” but that Serbia is prepared for the next wave of floods.

More rising waters are expected Sunday evening near Sabac, a city in western Serbia near the Sava River. Vucic said that Sabac is well fortified and that authorities had done “everything that could be done.”

The Prime Minister pointed out that a 7.3 meter-tall dam has been erected, but that the current level of the Sava River is over 6.3 meters — a historic high. The river is expected to rise. He warned that it is difficult to predict what will happen if the river reaches 6.8 meters.

Rescuers in the hard-hit town of Obrenovac, 30 kilometers southwest of Belgrade, have recovered the first bodies of flood victims, according to Vucic. He expressed concern over how many more may be found when waters subside. Authorities estimate that 90% of the town has been flooded.

The Prime Minister thanked the many countries that have already come to Serbia’s aid. He was especially grateful to members of the Russian special forces, highlighting one member who swam 200 meters in cold water to save several people.

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