PM in dramatic appeal to "defend town at any cost"
Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić late on Friday described the situation in Serbia, struck by severe flooding, as "catastrophic."Source: B92, Beta, Tanjug
He said the number of victims in Obrenovac was "not small," and warned that the town of Šabac - upstream from Belgrade on the Sava River - "must be defended at any cost."
The prime minister warned that "if water rises another 30 centimeters in Obrenovac, much of Serbia could be left without electricity," and told the citizens that their country was facing "three months of hell."
The rivers Kolubara, Tamnava and Sava are all rising and threatening Šabac.
"The situation in Serbia is much harder than can be imagined, it is cataclysmic in Obrenovac and many towns in western and central Serbia, and it will get more difficult. What lies ahead is worse than what we had so far," Vučić warned.
He once again appealed on the citizens not to refuse to be evacuated, adding that "the people must help us if we are to save the country."
According to him, rescuers, police officers and soldiers have spent the past three days and nights in exhausting work to help the citizens, who often refused to cooperate in the worst-hit areas.
"We pulled out 2,640 people today, we rescued 97 children, contrary to the will of their parents to be evacuated. There are between 1,800 and 2,000 people left awaiting help and any moment could be their last," Vučić said.
He made an appeal to the EU to offer "serious assistance to Serbia," and said the country was "not in need of EUR 30,000 or 50,000" but instead required helicopters and boats.
Vučić at the same time thanked those countries who have already helped, sending their own people to risk their lives helping the flood victims, and expressed his gratitude to the governments of Russia, Slovenia, Montenegro - which sent its divers - Austria, and Germany.
Vučić announced that the Russian Federation would be sending two additional planes to Serbia, after the one that landed in Niš early on Friday.
He also expressed his gratitude to those companies that helped with the humanitarian supplies.
Speaking about the situation in Šabac, he said that evacuation of residents should start now, "just in case".
"We must defend Šabac by all means and using all our forces," Vučić said, adding that tens of thousands of homes are at stake, while damage could be "of Biblical proportions, not to mention the loss of life."
He warned that anyone caught robbing abandoned homes would be put on trial "under an urgent procedure," and that stores looking to use the emergency situation and raise prices without justification will also face sanctions.
According to reports, "preventive evacuation" has been ordered for Šabac on Friday afternoon.
Volunteers have been urged to leave from Belgrade for Šabac tonight and tomorrow. More soldiers will also be sent to the town.
Reports on Friday night said that thousands of Belgraders were headed towards Šabac where they will help reinforce levees along the Sava River, and that more will join them tomorrow.
Forecasters expect the Sava River to rise in the coming days due to the rainfall upstream in Bosnia and Croatia. More rain is expected on Saturday, but only for a short portion of the day, with a decreasing tendency in the coming days.