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Europe Region: Flash floods - Information bulletin no. 1

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This bulletin is being issued for information only and reflects the current situation and details available at this time.

The situation

Thousands of people have been affected by floods in Europe and Central Asia in March after heavy rainfall combined with a rapid rise in temperatures saw snow and ice thaw quickly. There have been severe temperature deviations below average this month and a major disturbance coming from the Atlantic. Meteorological models determine that another wintry spell can happen by the end of March, accompanied by disruptive snowfall for North-Western and Central Europe. Snow and flood alerts are issued for 12 countries, with the Balkans and Southern Europe at highest risk. Higher temperatures will continue to rise and more heavy rain is expected throughout the next week , putting thousands more people at risk across the region.

Red Cross and Red Crescent teams are responding or ready to respond to ongoing and impending emergencies.

Albania

Since 2 March, Shkodra prefecture has been affected by extensive flooding caused initially by the melting of the fallen snow due to warm winds and gradually increasing temperatures. Intense rainfall over subsequent days, combined with the increase in discharge from hydro power plants (HPP) in the Drin cascade, have worsened the flooding situation. The floods have been spreading, covering 4,800 ha of agricultural land cutting off 160 housesand fully flooding 40 homes,. The villages of Obot and Shirq, in Ana e Malit and Dajç administrative units, respectively, are in the most difficult situation.

The situation worsened on 19 March, affecting even the suburban areas of the city of Shkodra, where 25 people wereevacuated by military and police, and accommodated in a high school dormitory. The deterioration of the situation was caused by the discharges of HPPs Fierzë, Koman and Vau Deja, as well as the high amount of precipitation in Shkodra area, particularly in its northeast. Authorities increased the amount of compulsory dischargesin order to reduce pressure on dams, as water levels are at an almost critical level. The villages of Velipoja and Trushe, and most of the villages of Dajç are faced with drinking water shortages due to the absence of the water pumping system.

Belarus

On 19 March, the first floods were reported by the Belarusian authorities, local media and Belarus Red Cross branches, with 316 flooded houses reported to be flooded in three regions of the country. According to information provided by hydro0meteorological agencies, rapidly-increasing volumes of water are observed across the entire country. The rise of water levels amounts to 10–200 cm per day, depending on the district.

The Ministry of Emergencies predicts that 140 villages and towns, a well as community farming projects will be affected by floods in a total of 43 districts. In addition, 70 road segments and 15 bridges, and at least 6,600 garden cottages are estimated to be flooded in the next two weeks. The level of rivers is rising, with ice still covering the rivers Western Dvina, Dniepr, Berezina, Sozh, as well as the Vileiskoe, Chigirinskoe, Zaslavskoe, Soligorskoe, Krasnaya Sloboda water storages, and the lakes Drivyaty, Naroch, Chervonoe. With the melting of ice, significant increases of water levels are expected. Snow is still on the ground in some districts, reaching up to 20 cm. As of 21 March, it was also snowing, which will further worsen the situation with thawing. The daily water-level fluctuation in the rivers is on average 12 cm. In many rivers, the level of water is already above bottom land. Rivers Pripyat, Sluch and Ubort will reach the crucial level of water within a few days. The most critical areas are the ones near village Chernichi, in Gomel region. 1,356 houses have been fully or partially flooded.

Croatia

Heavy rains and a sudden rise in temperatures has caused rapid snow thaw, particularly in the mountainous areas, and triggered a number of flood-related problems in several areas of Croatia. The situation is most difficult in Kupa and Sava basin and in the area near Gospic. Due to the enormous efforts of all protection and rescue stakeholders, it seems that a major disaster will be avoided. So far, 150 houses have been flooded in different areas (50 in Gospic area), and 7 houses have collapsed as a consequence of land-slides in Hrvatska Kostajnica, with 23 evacuated persons accommodated at a local hotel. Based on weather forecasts, the affected areas will remain on alert for at least one more week before the situation is normalised.

Hungary

On 17 March, a wave of extreme cold weather and precipitation over the north-eastern part of Hungary led to heavy snowstorms and snow blockades on the roads of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén, Hajdú-Bihar, Heves, Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok and Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg counties. Tidal rain caused slippery road sections in several locations. Firefighters have been alerted to more than three hundred locations over a few hours and hundreds of interventions took place in subsequent days. Due to a wire break, 31 settlements of five counties, with a total of 32 thousand consumers, stopped receiving electricity. Service providers have been working on repairing the disruption for days. The National Meteorological Service issued a level-three (red) warning to some areas of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén, Hajdú-Bihar, Heves, Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok and Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg counties. Trucks and passenger cars drifted off the slippery roads, while trees broke cables and fell down closing the roads. Due to the intense snowing, the authorities closed for a short time a section of the M3 motorway and the 36th highway in full width. The weather is slowly getting better, and temperatures are expected to increase in the next weeks, but, in some parts of the country, snowing is still expected.

Kazakhstan

Three days of heavy rain and melting snow have caused flooding in East Kazakhstan Region. Flooding has affected the regional capital, Oskemen, and the districts of Ayagoz, Glubokoe, Kurshim and Ulan. People are at a loss, without property, and have been forced to leave their homes. According to the latest data, 176 houses of the city of Ayagoz have incurred damages, with 32 being completely destroyed. More than 130 people have been left without a roof and were placed in the evacuation centre at a boarding school in Ayagoz. The total number of affected people is 600.

Montenegro

According to the information received from the Hydro Meteorological Institute of Montenegro, floods are likely to happen in the area of Ulcinj and Lake Skadar (Podgorica and Bar), with predicted strong south winds, snow thaw and the sea level rising, with an anticipated rainfall of 300 liters per m2. Rescue services are already alerting local populations in the potentially-affected communities to evacuate cattle, food and machinery, and to move household items to higher floors, if possible. Depending on water release from the Albanian side (which is a high probability), the flow of water could be more than 1,500 m3 / sec. In this case, river Bojana will not be able to accommodate these quantities of water, and floods are inevitable. According to predictions, Saturday will be the most critical day.

Romania

Rain and melting snow have caused flooding in Romania over the last few days. As of 15 March, Romania’s Department for Emergency Situations (Departamentul pentru Situaţii de Urgenţă – DSU), said that 12 houses had been severely damaged, with over 400 others flooded to some extent. Flooding has also damaged bridges, water supply and commercial premises. Some of the worst of the flooding has been reported in the counties of Covasna and Brașov in the Transylvania region. On 14 March, seven people were rescued after they had been left isolated by flooding in areas around Șercaia and Mândra in Braşov county. Late on 14 March, DSU officials decided to evacuate around 300 residents from 130 houses in the village of Căpeni, Covasna County. Around 40 people have refused to evacuate. Romania’s National Institute of Hydrology and Water Management (INHGA) issued orange warnings for stretches of the Olt river in central areas of the country, and the Neajlov, a tributary of the river Argeș. Code-yellow warnings are in place for southern stretches of the Olt and Argeș, and also the Mureş, Târnava Mare and Târnava Mică rivres in north central areas. Romania is facing some heavy snowfalls (yellow and orange codes). The past week has seen some floods but nothing major, only some fields and roads were covered in water.

Serbia

4–12 March saw snow thaw resulting in flooding in the southern and central part of Serbia. In southern Serbia, and, in the central part of the country, in municipality of Krusevac (Djunis), a total 180 households were affected by floods. Floods were caused by snow thaw due to higher temperatures. In general, most of the municipalities successfully defended their territory from flooding. Major rivers did not cause any problems, with all flooding being caused by tributaries. More snow and rainfall is expected.