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May 20, 2014

Record Balkan floods lead to Bosnia landslides

SARAJEVO, Bosnia — Landslides triggered by unprecedented rains in Bosnia have left hundreds of people homeless, officials said Sunday, while thousands more have fled their homes in neighboring Croatia and Serbia as Balkan countries battle the region’s worst flooding since modern records began.

Throughout hilly Bosnia, floods are triggering landslides covering roads, homes and whole villages. About 300 landslides have been reported, and stranded villagers often are being rescued by helicopter.

“The situation is catastrophic,” said Bosnia’s refugee minister, Adil Osmanovic.

Three months’ worth of rain fell on the region in a three-day burst, creating the worst floods since rainfall measurements began 120 years ago.

Observed from the air, almost a third of Bosnia chiefly in the northeast resembles a huge muddy lake, with houses, roads and rail lines submerged. Officials say about a million people — more than a quarter of the country’s population — live in the worst-affected areas.

The hillside village of Horozovina, close to the northeastern town of Tuzla, was practically split in two by a landslide that swallowed eight houses. More than 100 other houses were under threat from the restless earth. Residents told stories of narrow escapes from injury or death.

“I am homeless. I have nothing left, not even a toothpick,” said one resident, Mesan Ikanovic. “I ran out of the house barefoot, carrying children in my arms.”

Ikanovic said 10 minutes separated him and his family from likely death. He carried his 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son to safety.

Ikanovic said he secured a mortgage and moved in only last year. “Now I have nothing,” he said, adding, “Where will I go now? Where will we live?”

Semid Ivilic’s house in the lower part of the village was still standing. But as he looked upward at the mass of earth and rubble that engulfed his neighbors’ homes, Ivelic said he was worried.

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