Recovery from Balkans floods will take billions

AIDA CERKEZ JOVANA GEC Associated Press Published:

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) -- Floodwaters receded Wednesday in Bosnia and Serbia, just enough to reveal the next shock: recovery from the historic flood will cost billions of euros that neither of the countries has.

EU and NATO officials are visiting Bosnia Wednesday to talk to local officials about what steps need to be taken next.

Bosnian authorities say they fear the damage may exceed that caused by the entire 1992-95 war. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic has said that the damage in his country has exceeded 0.64 percent of GDP, meaning that Serbia can apply for EU solidarity funds.

Both countries say they will need international help, and international experts will be touring the devastated areas as soon as the water goes down, to estimate the damage.

Bosnian officials said a quarter of Bosnia's population of 4 million have been affected by the six days of floods that covered a quarter of the country's territory. Some 100,000 homes and 230 schools were destroyed by the torrents and 2,100 landslides.

"The extent of the damage is so horrific that it is better not to reveal any details before we have a clear picture," said Bosnia's Foreign Minister, Zlatko Lagumdzija, on Monday.

The country lost roads, bridges, water supply and sewage systems as well as the few businesses some towns and villages had.

Almost no one had property insurance in the country with one of the lowest GDPs in Europe and an unemployment rate of up to 44 percent.

Bosnia's northern flatland was focused on agriculture and the flood broke the region's economic backbone.

On Wednesday a mine exploded near the village of Cerik where the water had moved one of the more than 9,000 minefields left from the war. Nobody was hurt.

In Serbia, Infrastructure Minister Zorana Mihajlovic said 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) of roads have been destroyed or damaged and about 30 percent of railway lines still cannot be accessed.

Serbia, like much of the Balkans, is poor. The country has failed to fully recover its economy following the wars and international sanctions in the 1990s, and is marred by mismanagement and widespread corruption. The unemployment rate officially stands at 20 percent, but is much higher in reality.

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Gec reported from Belgrade, Serbia. Irena Knezevic contributed from Banja Luka, Bosnia

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