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Flooding In Balkans Kills Dozens, Threatens Power Supply

The worst flooding on record in the Balkans has killed dozens of people and now threatens a power plant that is Serbia's main source of electricity.

Tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes from rising waters in Serbia, Bosnia and parts of Croatia. Thousands more remain stranded, many of them trapped in upper floors of buildings without power or phone service. More than a thousand people have been evacuated by helicopter.

The flooding was triggered by months worth of rain that has fallen during the past five days.

"Flood maps marking the affected areas make it look as though a vast inland sea has suddenly appeared across the region," The Economist reports.

Surging water from the Sava River was threatening the Nikola Tesla power plant in the Serbian town of Obrenovac, 30 kilometers southwest of Belgrade. The Associated Press reports that the coal-fired plant "supplies electricity for half of Serbia and most of Belgrade."

The AP adds:

"Serbian police chief Nebojsa Stefanovic ordered the town completely evacuated of civilians Monday because of an expected surge from the Sava."

An estimated 300,000 Serbians already lack access to clean water or electricity, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The death toll, which The Associated Press put at 35 as of Monday, is expected to rise. The Economist reports that officials also are concerned about the possibility that the immense amounts of water and mud may have shifted some of the tens of thousands of landmines left over from the war that ravaged Bosnia during the 1990s.

Bosnian Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija compared the current damage to that conflict. He told the AP that about 100,000 houses and 230 schools and health facilities have been destroyed by the floods. As the Two-Way has reported, flooding has triggered thousands of landslides in the Balkans.

"The only difference from the war is that less people have died," Lagumdzija said.

One small silver lining is that the scope of the damage has inspired a renewed sense of regional solidarity in the former Yugoslavia. Military, police and other types of aid have arrived from Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro and Macedonia.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/

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