Reflecting on the events from the past few days, volunteer Milan Mirkovic says: “In this disaster situation one of the best things that happened was the outpouring of solidarity. We had to open more than 40 centres in Belgrade for people being evacuated from Obrenovac and other places, and we never lacked food or dry clothes or volunteers. People just came to donate or help, even without us having to make appeals for assistance through radio or other means.”
Mirkovic is a medical doctor and a member of the governing board of the Red Cross in Serbia. He says that the amount of rain causing the worst floods in more than a century surprised everybody. Two months worth of rain fell over just two days.
“We have thousands of volunteers trained and prepared, special rescue teams, some stocks prepositioned, so we were able to activate very fast, but we were surprised about how much rain fell and how quickly villages and cities got flooded.”
One of the worst affected areas in Serbia is the city of Obrenovac, south-west of Belgrade, where three rivers pass, the Sava, Kolubara and Tamnava.
“People were evacuated from here over many days,” Mirkovic said. “The water started to recede but then came back up again. Most evacuees were taken to Belgrade, where we prepared all the centres to receive them.”
“It was terrible when people first came in. Some were wet and dirty, many children had been separated from their parents or one parent during evacuation, so there were a lot of crying in the first few days. Luckily a lot of volunteers were able to organise games and plays for the children to make them laugh, and through our website and restoring family links, we have been able to reunite families quite quickly.”
The solidarity shown during this time of crisis also impressed Mirkovic.”People in the Balkans are strong and resilient. We have a saying that if something does not kill you, it makes you stronger.”