UN Report on flooding handed over to the Government of Serbia

04 Jun 2014

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The United Nations team of experts says that a massive reconstruction, recovery and clean-up effort is needed in response to the unprecedented floods that hit Serbia in mid-May.

In a report delivered to the Government of Serbia today, the experts warn of health risks from stagnant water, potential risk to the environment and damage to agriculture.

The experts from UNDAC (UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination) arrived in Serbia within 36 hours of the floods to assess the damage done by the floods, the biggest natural disaster in the region in 120 years, which cost 34 persons their lives and displaced 30,000 people.

The report reflects the situation, as it was during their visits on the ground in Serbia, 18-31 May, but the condition of houses and road and energy infrastructure will have to be assessed further once the water has receded completely.

Ms. Irena Vojackova-Sollorano, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Serbia, handed the expert´s report today over to the Government of Serbia.

"This report is a starting point," says Ms. Vojackova-Sollorano. "I am looking forward to work with the Government of Serbia, the European Union and the World Bank on a more thorough assessment of the longer term needs of Serbia, which will be done through the so called PDNA (Post Disaster Needs Assessment). The report we handed over today is an important contribution to the recovery efforts."

Among the main findings are:

The experts warn of potential health problems associated with stagnant water and blocked sewage systems.

  • Sanitary and septic waste has washed out of containment and has potentially entered downstream water soucres. The use of open water sources further contributes to risk of water born diseases. Potable water delivery has little direct publich health oversight for safety and quality.
  • Debris, waste, standing water and structural damage to institutions, health facilities and housing create hazards to returnees and clean-up crews.

The report says that potential dangers to the environment have been identified and need further assessment and monitoring. In specific environmental assessments that the experts carried out at 5 different sites, the experts identified potential dangers to the environment.

  • At the Prva Iskra - Basic Chemistry the experts found plastic containers with a disposed material known as "Kosorob" in a poor state, in an open hall.
  • At the Prva Iskra - LAB DOO the assessment left a clear impression of a site under strong degradation and no attention from its owner regardless of the risk to the environment. The experts warn of potential leak of chemicals, which could have long-term negative impact to human health due to spreading of contaminants to the groundwater.
  • At the EKO Gas MBS Sabac, the experts found metal drums containing 105 tons of hazardous waste. The metal drums are in very poor condition and hazardous waste is clearly leaking into the environment. However, flooding has not affected the site.

Agriculture is seriously affected and small-scale farmers, who have lost this year´s harvest need support (seed, fertilizer and production equipment) for next year.

Soil contamination has to be addressed prior to rehabilitation of agriculture land/infrastructure and prior to cultivation to ensure food safety.

Landslides have to be further assessed and attention needs to be given to further landslides that can potentially bring lives at risk by destroying houses.

Affected populations are exposed to the adversities and stress of the situation and are suffering from the adverse conditions in collective accommodation centers.

For the full UNDAC Report, please follow the link: http://bit.ly/1o9pqaK