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Floods in Serbia: 300 older people rescued from retirement home

20 May 2014

An older woman is rescued from the floods in Serbia.Last week, Serbia saw the same amount of rain in seven days as would normally fall in two months. Swollen rivers have flooded many villages and towns and lives have been lost.

The town of Obrenovac – a municipality of Belgrade – was hit hardest. The whole of the city had to be evacuated, with the water level rising so quickly that many people were trapped on the roofs of their houses or higher floors of buildings.

Older people trapped for three days

Evacuation efforts are difficult because many buildings are hard to reach. All of these images are highly dramatic; however last night at least one of these dramas was resolved successfully: The evacuation of 300 less mobile people from a retirement home in Obrenovac.

The dramatic rescue was made harder by the fact that water had already completely flooded the ground floor and access was limited. Older, less mobile people, together with the employees spent three days trapped without electricity and drinking water. Communication was also difficult, as mobile phone batteries ran out.

The drama ended on Sunday when the 300 older people were evacuated after volunteers reached them with food and oxygen bottles. 150 of them are now in the Gerontological Centre in Belgrade. The rest have been sent to safety in other cities around the country. At the moment, staff are still identifying the evacuees as some of them cannot provide their names.

Remote areas cut off by floods

A retirement home in Umcari was also evacuated and older people who were living there are now safe. There are still places that are currently unreachable, however. This is especially true for older people living in the countryside and small villages.

These people are essentially left to their own devices as their villages are now cut off due to roads being destroyed. Volunteers are hard at work trying to get food and water to them before they run out.

In Serbia at the moment, more than 26,000 households have lost electricity for prolonged periods of time, 2,260 houses and buildings are flooded and another 1,763 are at risk of flooding. 25,070 people have been evacuated, with 7,800 of those from Obrenovac alone.

Taking action

The Red Cross of Serbia has mobilised its national Disaster Management team as well as teams in 31 affected municipalities. These teams of trained volunteers have been assessing the needs of the affected population, alongside the national response effort.

Distributions of canned food, bottled water, hygiene items and diapers to displaced people in evacuation centres and, to a lesser extent, to those stranded in their homes have met some of the most urgent needs of those affected.

The Red Cross of Serbia will assist with the mitigation and recovery efforts once the biggest risk to life is over. They will provide mud pumps for flooded houses as well as house repair kits containing disinfectant, tools and repair material so that people can return to their homes as soon as possible.

The organisation will also provide psychosocial support and information on water borne diseases to those affected to help maintain their physical and mental health.

Find out about older people's specific needs in emergencies.

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Author profile

Natasa Todorovic
Country: Serbia
Job title: Health and Care Program Manager

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