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UPDATE: At least three killed after massive storm whips Balkans

Thu, 15th May 2014 15:03

Belgrade (Alliance News) - At least three people drowned in floods Thursday as a massive storm whith record rainfall and powerful winds lashed Serbia and its neigbours.

Among the victims was a homeowner who refused to be evacuated on the outskirts of Belgrade and a firefighter on a rescue operation north of the capital.

Serbia declared a nationwide state of emergency because of flooding across the country. The government said that it has asked Russia, the European Commission and Slovenia for humanitarian and technical assistance to deal with the effects of the flooding.

Within a period of 24 hours, some 120 litres of rain fell per square metre, beating a record from 1897, meteorologist Biljana Vranes said.

More than 180 litres of rain per square metre is expected to fall in the two-and-a-half days until Friday noon, compared to the monthly average for May of 70 litres.

Authorities said that more than 600 people were evacuated and that 100,000 households were without electricity. Entire towns were cut off as a precaution as water levels continued to rise.

Several major routes, including the E-75 Belgrade-Skopje highway, were submerged and impassable. The railway line to Montenegro was also interrupted.

Traffic was at a standstill in parts of Belgrade after more than 30 hours of heavy rain. Local authorities ordered schools to remain closed Thursday and Friday.

Serbia and its neighbours were at the centre of a slowly-moving cyclone, which is expected to shift to the east and then south, to the eastern Mediterranean, in the coming days.

The storm it brought was followed by a sharp drop in temperature, precipitation and gale-force winds. Snow fell in higher areas of Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia.

To the west, in Bosnia, floods forced the evacuation of hundreds of people. With roads submerged and several bridges carried away by swollen rivers, the government in Sarajevo ordered the army to deploy helicopters in rescue missions.

In Croatia, the authorities closed sections of the highway along the Adriatic coast because of the storm and the wind reaching 150 kilometres per hour.

The national meteorology service issued a "red alert" in continental Croatia, warning that the wind powerful enough to knock down trees and carry debris at a deadly speed.

Thousands of households across the region have been without electricity since Wednesday, while occasional blackouts occurred elsewhere. The cyclone was slowly moving eastward, hitting Bulgaria and Romania.

In Bulgaria, a woman has gone missing after a flood hit Knezha, a town in the north. A tornado reportedly formed on the outskirts of Sofia, damaging roofs in the suburb Chepinci.

Waters were rising in Romania between Bucharest and the Carpathian mountains, causing floods in around two dozen villages.

Copyright dpa

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