April 12, 2006

Serbia Towns Flooded, Danube Rising

BELGRADE -- Three towns in northern Serbia called for emegency measures to deal with floods on Wednesday, while levels in the Sava and Danube rivers in the capital Belgrade were close to record highs and still rising.

The towns of Titel, Zabalj and Zrenjanin were threatened by floodwaters from the Tisa river, which flows from Hungary to join the Danube in Serbia's northern province of Vojvodina.

Authorities were building new embankments and evacuating people from their homes.

"We are really entering a dramatic phase in the next few days," Branislav Radovanovic of the Vojvodina water management board told live television.

He said crews had trouble taking sandbags to the Tisa river bank on one side because of a flooded wooded area that made access very difficult. They resorted to taking the sandbags by boat on the river in the pouring rain, he added.

In Belgrade, the Sava and Danube rivers are some 20 centimeters from the record highs they hit in 1981. Authorities say embankments built from earth and sandbags will manage to hold back the peak of the water expected on Thursday and Friday.

Construction was also starting on a special pontoon bridge over a flooded highway along the Sava river, to allow traffic through a busy commuter route that leads to the suburbs.