Heavy rain has caused severe flash flooding in Bosnia and Herzegovina, prompting evacuations, causing power outages in most of the capital, closing a key facility for oxygen used for COVID-19 patients and submerging roads in some parts of the Balkan country.
The only certified medicinal oxygen filling plant in Bosnia, part of Germany’s Messer Group, was among workplaces and homes in the suburbs of Sarajevo that had to be evacuated after being overrun by fast-moving floodwater on Friday.
Avdo Delic, general manager of Messer’s Bosnia branch, said the plant was completely submerged and voiced concern that hospitals around the country treating COVID-19 patients might run out of medicinal oxygen cylinders unless the company’s operations are quickly restored at alternative locations.
Bosnia is seeing an increase in COVID-19 hospitalisations amid a recent surge of the virus. The country of 3.5 million has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Europe at less than 20 percent. On Friday, it reported some 1,100 new daily infections and 32 deaths.
So far, Bosnia has confirmed more than 250,000 infections and more than 11,000 deaths, one of the highest death rates in Europe per capita.
Hundreds of homes in the Sarajevo suburbs, along the rivers Bosnia, Tilava and Zeljeznica, and in the southwest part of the country, around the town of Konjic, had to be evacuated under unrelenting heavy downpours.
Most parts of Sarajevo were left for hours without electric power due to the flooding of one of the main substations on the outskirts of the city. The power transmission company, Elektroprijenos, said the heavy rain was hindering attempts to get the power rerouted. Electricity has since been restored in most of the city.
Footage of the floods in Vojkovici, outside Sarajevo, showed a local gas station and motel sitting precariously close to the fast-flowing, swollen Zeljava river, which had eaten away its banks.
Rising rivers flooded many local roads around Bosnia, forcing some schools to cancel classes.
The rain started late on Thursday and forecasts say it will continue to fall until Sunday, raising fears of a repeat of record flooding that affected about a third of the population in 2014.
It followed days of unseasonably warm weather with temperatures of more than 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit).