Balkan Flooding Exacerbates Landmine Crisis

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Record flooding in spring 2014 in Bosnia–Herzegovina and Serbia killed an estimated 57 people and displaced more than 50,000 at the height of the natural disaster.1 As of 2014 June 13, 7,500 people were displaced and living in temporary shelters.1 The Red Cross reports that, in addition to destroying agricultural land, flooding caused thousands of landslides, displacing landmines buried during the 1992–1995 conflict associated with the break-up of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as well as the warning signs marking contaminated land.2 Authorities estimate that more than 120,000 mines contaminate Bosnia–Herzegovina.3 According to the U.N., 70 percent of the flood-affected areas may contain landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO), and 800 sq km (309 sq mi) of suspected contaminated areas are flooded.4

Areas affected by flooding in the Balkans in May 2014.
Map courtesy of ArnoldPlaton/Wikipedia.Areas affected by flooding in the Balkans in May 2014.
Map courtesy of ArnoldPlaton/Wikipedia.

Residents in flood-affected areas in Bosnia–Herzegovina and Serbia reported mine and UXO sightings. A landmine in Brčko, Bosnia–Herzegovina, exploded underwater with no casualties reported.5 In addition, mines were documented in the following areas: Bosanska Krupa, Olovo, Semizovac and Visoko.4 As floodwaters carry mines downstream, currents could send mines as far as the Black Sea.6 Furthermore, there is growing concern that floating mines may become trapped in the turbines of a hydroelectric dam.6 Bosnia and Herzegovina Mine Action Centre (BHMAC) official Sasa Obradovic warns that residents must take precautions as they clean up their homes and lands from receding floodwaters.7

Moreover, mines threaten the relief effort and landslides worsen the situation. While Serbian and Bosnian demining units are trained in clearing landmines and UXO under normal working conditions, the flooding complicates circumstances, requiring different approaches for shifting land and underwater mine clearance.5

The EU allocated EU€65 million (approximately US$88 million as of 20 June 2014) to Bosnia–Herzegovina, and Serbia, and the International Monetary Fund is prepared to double its funds to €190 million (approximately $258 million as of 20 June 2014).8 The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) deployed two separate Quick Reaction Force (QRF) teams, each consisting of three civilian explosive ordnance disposal experts, on 25 May 2014. The QRF teams assisted the BHMAC and Serbian Mine Action Centre in assessing the landmine situation following the floods, identified gaps in assistance, and provided recommendations to U.S. and local authorities on demining program needs. Bosnia–Herzegovina also received outside support from countries including Germany, France, Italy and the U.K. c

~ Christina Carr, CISR staff


Contact Information

Center for International Stabilization and Recovery
James Madison University
800 S. Main Street MSC 4902
Ph: +1 540 568 2718
Email: cisr@jmu.edu
Website: http://www.jmu.edu/cisr

 

Endnotes

  1. “Floods in the Balkans: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia.” Situation Report No.3. World Health Organization. Last modified 13 June 2014. http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/252094/Balkan-Floods-Sitrep-3-rev.pdf.
  2. Yan, Holly and Santiago, Kisa Mlela. “Epic flooding in Balkans raises fears about landmines surfacing.” CNN. Last modified 20 May 2014. http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/19/world/europe/balkans-flooding/.
  3. Zuvela, Maja. “Balkan floods may have undone years of landmine detection.” Reuters. Last modified 20 May 2014. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/20/us-balkans-flood-landmines-idUSBREA4J0K220140520.
  4. “Bosnia and Herzegovina – Flood Disaster Situation Report.” United Nations. Last modified 27 May 2014. http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Situation%20Report%2027May2014%20.pdf.
  5. Cerkez, Aida. “Bosnia floods create new land-mine risks in Balkans.” Associated Press. Last modified 18 May 2014. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/bosnia-floods-create-new-land-mine-risk-balkans.
  6. “Thousands of wartime explosives dislodged as Balkans flooding leads to landslides.” RT. Last modified 19 May 2014. http://rt.com/news/159984-landmines-flood-balkans-landslide/.
  7. “Flood damage to Serbia, Bosnia around 3b euros: EBRD.” Channel NewsAsia. Last modified 30 May 2014. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/flood-damage-to-serbia/1127930.html.
  8. Sito-Sucic, Daria. “IMF to double funding for Bosnia over flooding.” Yahoo News. Last modified 30 May 2014. http://news.yahoo.com/imf-double-funding-bosnia-over-flooding-132509639--business.html.