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European Union responds to Balkans flooding

BELGRADE: The European Commission (EC) has promised €1 billion in aid to Croatia and Serbia following the worst flooding in the last 120 years that has killed an estimated 45 people and affected four million.

An extra-tropical cyclone that dumped three months of rain in three days across the Balkan Peninsula has resulted in more than 3,000 landslides and exposed landmines left over from the 1992-1995 war.

Balkans floodingBosnian foreign minister Zlatko Lagumdžija said more than 100,000 houses were now uninhabitable and over a million people had been cut off from clean water. "During the war, many people lost everything," he said. "Today, again they have nothing."

The widespread flooding is now threatening Serbia's largest power plant, southwest of Belgrade, that provides half of the country's electricity.

Kristalina Georgieva, the EC's Humanitarian Aid commissioner, said Serbia's request for high-capacity water pumps and aid teams had already been answered by Bulgaria, Germany, Slovenia, Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Croatia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has also begun a US$1.5 million operation to fly emergency relief items to Serbia including water tanks, generators and inflatable boats provided by WFP and the Norwegian Government.

Three flights have already flown tents, water containers and purification equipment from the WFP depot in Brindisi to Belgrade and Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Following a request from the Red Cross, the WFP is also flying a shipment of high-energy biscuits and ready-meals from its warehouse in Dubai to help 7,000 people in Serbia.

In addition to Serbia's request for help, Slovenia, Austria, Luxembourg, the UK, Slovakia, Belgium and Germany are providing Bosnia and Herzegovina with helicopters and motor-boats to support the evacuation of thousands of residents and the transportation of water, medicines and food in an on-going relief operation co-financed by the EC.

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