BELGRADE, Serbia — Soldiers, police and volunteers worked feverishly Monday to contain the raging Sava River before it could inundate Serbia's main power plant, causing major power cuts to Belgrade and the rest of the country.
The coal-fired Nikola Tesla power plant, which supplies electricity for half of Serbia and most of Belgrade, lies in the flood-hit town of Obrenovac, 20 kilometers (16 miles) upstream of the capital. The emergency crews have so far defended the power plant by building high walls of sandbags but it's not clear those will withstand the force of the river.
Serbia and Bosnia are struggling with the worst flooding in southeastern Europe in more than a century. At least 35 people have died in five days of flooding caused by unprecedented torrential rain. Entire towns and villages are underwater, thousands of hills have crumpled into landslides and tens of thousands have been forced to flee their homes.
The death toll is expected to rise further as floodwaters recede after the worst rainfall in 120 years of records.
The situation in Obrenovac was critical Monday and the entire town was ordered evacuated in the afternoon, said Predrag Maric, a Serbian emergency official. The Sava flood wave was expected to reach Obrenovac and Belgrade later Monday and peak by Wednesday. Eleven villages along the Sava River were ordered evacuated Monday ahead of the flood wave.
Some 7,800 people have already been evacuated from Obrenovac, where many homes are completely submerged by water. Another 2,000 people are still believed trapped in the higher floors of buildings there, without power or phone lines.
In Bosnia, Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija called the flood damage "immense" and compared it to the carnage during the country's 1992-95 war that killed at least 100,000 people and left millions homeless. He said the flooding had destroyed about 100,000 houses and 230 schools and hospitals and left a million people without drinking water.
"The only difference from the war is that less people have died," he said. "The country is devastated ... this is something that no war in the history of this country" ever accomplished.
In Orasje, a Bosnian border town, frantic efforts were being made to prevent the Sava further surging through broken barriers. Ideas included dropping old trucks from helicopters or covering the gaps with wire frames and then reinforcing with sandbags.
The emergency commander in the town, Fahrudin Solak, said the decaying corpses of drowned farm animals now represented a major health risk.
"We are sending out mobile incinerators and we have asked for international assistance, to send us more incinerators to prevent diseases," he said.
Floods have also triggered more than 3,000 landslides across the Balkans. Aside from sweeping away home and barns, the landslides have carried land mines left over from the region's war, along with their warning signs, to entirely new, often unknown, locations.
"Landslides and land mines devastated very fertile land," Lagumdzija said.
Associated Press writers Sabina Niksic and Aida Cerkez in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Jovana Gec in Obrenovac, Serbia, contributed.