By Milos Mitrovic – Belgrade
More than one month after the severe floods hit Serbia the country still does not have an official damage estimation. Marko Blagojevic, head of the government’s Office for reconstruction and relief for the flooded areas said that the final estimation that would also include prevention measures would be finished on July 9.
At least 51 persons in Serbia died in the second half of May, after a low-pressure area designated “Yvette” or “Tamara” affected a large region of South-easternand Central Europe, causing floods and landslides. The rain was the heaviest in 120 years of recorded weather measurements.
In May, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) estimated that the damage from floods in Serbia could cost around 1.5-2 billion euros.
Marko Blagojevic said that the houses reconstruction would start next month. The process should be completed in September, he told Radio-Television of Serbia.
Earlier this month Transport Minister Zorana Mihajlovic said that 1,500 houses have been “completely devastated”, according to preliminary estimates.
When asked by RTS why the reconstruction of the houses has not already begun, Blagojevic said “there are many reasons which are causes for the delay. However, we cannot say that nothing has been done, the processes of the reconstruction that essentially affect people’s lives have started”.
“What we still have not started is a full range reconstruction – the construction of the new houses and the reparation of those which have been damaged”, Blagojevic said adding that “first, it’s necessary to make new rules for public contracts and the implementation of the reconstruction”.
When asked how it was possible that Bosnia, unlike Serbia, had already estimated the damage of the floods, Blagojevic said that the neighboring country has started the process earlier “in cooperation with international community”.
Blagojevic underlined that the “good report” (estimation) on floods would be important for organizing the international donors conference. However, he believes that the sums which may be provided by international donors would be “many times lower than the range of the damage”.
According to EBRD, a particularly heavy blow has been dealt to the agriculture sector as most of the arable land in flooded areas has been destroyed and the damage in Serbia and Bosnia could be hundreds of millions euros. The sector makes up 10% of Serbia’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The unknown data on the casualties and the damage of the floods, as well as the responsibility of the officials regarding the response to disaster, have been the cause for turbulences between government – especially Prime Minister AleksndarVucic –and some media. Vucic has also entered in an open conflict with OSCE officials in Serbia that had expressed their concerns over the alleged censorship and websites shutting downs during the floods.
Vucic has claimed that the “real” motive for OSCE claims was the dissatisfaction of this international organization with Serbian foreign policy; namely, with country’s decision to not impose sanctions to Russia over the Ukraine crisis. Vucic insists there were neither any censorship measures nor website shutting downs organized by the government. He demanded an apology from OSCE.