Serbia Evacuates Explosives-Producing Town as Floods Take Toll

May 17, 2014 11:05 am ET

May 17 (Bloomberg) -- Serbia started evacuating 6,000 people from a town with an explosives factory near Belgrade as swelling rivers broke roads and dams, leaving at least 12 people dead.

Baric has to be cleared by 5 p.m. local time, the Interior Ministry said in an e-mailed statement. State-owned military explosive maker Prva Iskra-Namenska a.d. is based in the town about 25 kilometers (16 miles) southwest of the capital. Meanwhile, thousands of volunteers, soldiers and police reinforced barriers after water burst through a dam near the Termoelektrane Nikola Tesla, a lignite-fed power plant that supplies 40 percent of the European nation’s electricity.

“This is a catastrophe unseen in Serbia,” Predrag Maric, the head of the the Serbian Interior Ministry’s emergencies unit, said at a news conference in Belgrade broadcast on state TV broadcaster RTS.

Serbia declared a state of emergency on May 15, after record rainfall triggered floods that in one day killed at least five people, with 18,000 more needing rescue. Road and rail transport has been interrupted and more than 88,000 households were without electricity. Maric urged Serbians not to panic and resist stockpiling water and food, after Belgrade’s biggest supermarkets sold out of water late yesterday.

The rainfall and floods initially hit the western parts of Serbia, bordering Bosnia, where six people were found dead by 10 a.m. today, Bosnian Serb president Milorad Dodik told a news conference in Belgrade.

“I’ve seen crude oil spills” as well as “dead cattle, which all pose a threat in the coming weeks,” he said.

Power Reductions

The city authorities in Belgrade will switch off street lights to save electricity and avoid outages, according to a statement on their website.

The rainfall led to a 25 percent drop in generation from Serbia’s biggest hydroelectric dam at Djerdap to allow controlled overflows. Serbia shares the facility with neighboring Romania.

Water levels have been rising rapidly across Serbia, with the Sava River expected to exceed 6 meters (20 feet) above safe levels in Belgrade by Wednesday, according to the hydrometeorological service. Rains are expected to stop by Monday.

The World Bank approved a $24 million credit for the Drina Flood Protection Project to improve flood management of the Drina River in and around the towns of Bijelijna and Gorazde.