Land mines, disease threaten Balkans amid record flooding

Hundreds of landslides have dislodged land mines left behind from ’90s war, as residents try to dig out their homes

EU and NATO officials are visiting Bosnia on Wednesday to discuss with local officials what steps need to be taken in the region to recover from the Balkans' worst flooding in a century. At least 2 million people in the region have been affected by the deluge, which has left more than 45 people dead.

And as parts of the region brace for more floods, residents grapple with fears of more landslides and the potential spread of disease.

Wednesday was the first of three days of national mourning in Serbia, where at least 22 people have died in the past several days. In the hard-hit town of Obrenovac 14 people died, though the number could increase once the streets are eventually cleared of water. 

The Serbian capital, Belgrade, is expected to be hit by another flood wave Wednesday. The city's manager, Goran Vesic, said the protective wall around Belgrade, reinforced with 350,000 sandbags, should keep the coming water at bay.

"We are hoping that there will not be problems," Vesic said.

Serbia, like much of the Balkans, suffers from crippling poverty. The country's economy has not fully recovered from wars and international sanctions in the 1990s, and is marred by mismanagement and widespread corruption. 

Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia are also dealing with threats of landslides and disease from the carcasses of dead animals lingering in the streets. 

Over the past several days, there have been reports of hundreds of landslides that have destroyed many houses and roads and cut off access to dozens of villages.

In Bosnia, where 20 people have died, the level of the Sava River, in the north, has decreased, but officials are worried about land mines left over from war that have been dislodged by landslides. Concern has also risen about the lack of food, water and medical supplies for those displaced from their homes.

Some 100,000 homes and 230 schools have been destroyed by the torrents and 2,100 landslides.

Bosnia's foreign minister, Zlatko Lagumdzija, on Monday called the extent of the damage "horrific."

In Croatia, where 3,000 people were evacuated, two people have died and at least one remains missing. The Croatian Ministry of Construction said it could cost more than $35 million to repair the 2,000 homes damaged by the floods.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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