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Trapped on roofs by flood

Samira Mahmic thought she was getting her life back when she was winched into a helicopter with her 10-year-old son clinging to her amid the worst flooding in more than a century in the Balkans.

But she froze when she realized the helicopter was now fully loaded and she looked down to see her 17-year-old daughter Amina, watching in disbelief as the aircraft left her behind on a roof sticking out of a sea of water.

"I thought they would go back but it got too late last night," Mahmic said Friday.

Luckily her daughter's mobile phone still had some battery Friday morning and Mahmic was able to reassure herself that her daughter and husband were both still alive.

"It's Judgment Day in Maglaj," Mahmic said of her northern Bosnian hometown that was hit by the heaviest rainfall since measuring started 120 years ago.

Rain-swollen rivers across the Balkans have flooded roads, cut off power and caused more than 200 landslides.

Two people are confirmed dead in Serbia, and on Friday the waters took their first victim in Bosnia when the wall of a house collapsed and killed an elderly man, said Banja Luka police spokeswoman Mirna Soja from

Rescuers are trying to save his wife who is stuck on a part of the roof that is still standing.

A landslide in the eastern town of Cerska has buried two women in their homes but they are still alive. The mud has pushed the local mosque some 100 metres down the slope. Only the minaret is still visible, the local imam Nurdin Grahic told media.

Both Bosnia and Serbia have requested international help. The EU said its Civil Protection Mechanism has been activated and Germany, Bulgaria and Austria have offered assistance.

In Serbia 6,000 people have been forced out of their homes and a Russian emergency team has flown in to join the rescue efforts.

In Bosnia, the EU force has three helicopters and 130 troops waiting for the weather to allow them to join rescuers, while the Bosnian Army has already resumed helicopter evacuations. Two helicopters have arrived from Croatia and two are on their way from Slovenia.

"In three days, as much rain fell as normally falls in three months," said Goran Mihajlovic, of Serbia's Meteorological Institute.

"Statistically, such rainfall happens once in 100 years," he added.

Mahmic sobbed as she described seeing from the helicopter on Thursday people on roofs and balconies waving baby clothes, signalling they are trapped with small infants. Water had reached second floors.

After having dug through landslides for three days, rescuers on Friday reached Maglaj by road and are delivering boats, blankets and food to the desperate population. A doctor is trying to paddle to a house where a woman is in labour, rescuers said.

 

The Canadian Press

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