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Body found in Serbia as Balkans struggles with floods

by The Associated Press | January 21, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
A flooded area in the city of Mitrovica, Kosovo, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. Heavy rainfall this week across the Balkans has caused rivers to rise dangerously in Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Montenegro, flooding some areas and threatening flood defenses elsewhere. (AP Photo/Bojan Slavkovic)

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) -- A man's body has been pulled from a swollen river in southwestern Serbia and rescuers are searching for another man, state television said Friday, as floods across the Balkans closed down schools, hampered traffic and soaked homes and farmland.

The floods this week in Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo have been triggered by heavy rainfall and unseasonably warm weather. Temperatures dropped in many areas Friday as rain turned into snow.

The torrential rains were unusual for winter months. They have caused many small rivers and streams in the region to overflow, flooding the surrounding areas and forcing scores of people from their homes.

Authorities in seven municipalities and towns in southwestern and southern Serbia have declared an emergency situation as they struggle to contain the surging waters. In the town of Raska, authorities closed down children's day care centers and schools.

"This was stronger than all of us. We couldn't defend some parts," senior official Nemanja Popovic said.

The body was recovered in Novi Pazar, where two men were swept away by the swollen waters of the Raska river Thursday. Authorities said river levels dropped Friday.

Heavy rainfall also has triggered landslides that cut off roads and a rail line connecting Serbia to neighboring Montenegro. Railway authorities said that passengers would be transferred by buses for one part of their route.

Floods were also reported Friday in parts of Kosovo, where the Ibar River and other, smaller rivers and streams overflowed, endangering homes and cutting off local roads. Around 50 families were forced to evacuate homes in northern and western Kosovo with authorities deploying security forces, including their trucks and boats, to help.

Though the rainfall eased in Albania, vast areas of farmland remained underwater and some remote villages remained cut off for a third day Friday. Some national roads were temporarily blocked, including the main highway link to neighboring Kosovo.

A number of regions in Albania were left without power, either from damage or because authorities switched off the electricity for security reasons. Some areas in both Kosovo and southern Serbia were also left without drinking water.

Bosnian authorities said after several days of flood alerts they expect the situation to calm as rains were followed by snowfall Friday that also blanketed the capital, Sarajevo, along with Serbia's capital, Belgrade, and other regional cities for the first time this winter.

photo A man uses a pump to drain water from his yard in Cacak, Serbia, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. Heavy rainfall this week across the Balkans has caused rivers to rise dangerously in Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro, flooding some areas and threatening flood defenses elsewhere, while two people were swept away by a swollen river in the southwestern town of Novi Pazar, according to state RTS television. (AP Photo/Marjan Vucetic)
photo A man salvages belongings from a flooded house in Cacak, Serbia, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. Heavy rainfall this week across the Balkans has caused rivers to rise dangerously in Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro, flooding some areas and threatening flood defenses elsewhere, while two people were swept away by a swollen river in the southwestern town of Novi Pazar, according to state RTS television. (AP Photo/Marjan Vucetic)
photo A man salvages belongings from a flooded house in Cacak, Serbia, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. Heavy rainfall this week across the Balkans has caused rivers to rise dangerously in Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro, flooding some areas and threatening flood defenses elsewhere, while two people were swept away by a swollen river in the southwestern town of Novi Pazar, according to state RTS television. (AP Photo/Marjan Vucetic)
photo Flooded area in the city of Mitrovica, Kosovo, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. Heavy rainfall this week across the Balkans has caused rivers to rise dangerously in Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Montenegro, flooding some areas and threatening flood defenses elsewhere. (AP Photo/Bojan Slavkovic)
photo Firefighters evacuate people from a flooded area in northern Serb-dominated part of ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. Heavy rainfall this week across the Balkans has caused rivers to rise dangerously in Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Montenegro, flooding some areas and threatening flood defenses elsewhere. (AP Photo/Bojan Slavkovic)
photo Flooded area in the city of Mitrovica, Kosovo, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. Heavy rainfall this week across the Balkans has caused rivers to rise dangerously in Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Montenegro, flooding some areas and threatening flood defenses elsewhere. (AP Photo/Bojan Slavkovic)
photo Firefighters evacuate people from a flooded area in the northern Serb-dominated part of ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. Heavy rainfall this week across the Balkans has caused rivers to rise dangerously in Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Montenegro, flooding some areas and threatening flood defenses elsewhere. (AP Photo/Bojan Slavkovic)
photo A firefighter walks through a flooded street in northern Serb-dominated part of ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. Heavy rainfall this week across the Balkans has caused rivers to rise dangerously in Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Montenegro, flooding some areas and threatening flood defenses elsewhere. (AP Photo/Bojan Slavkovic)
photo A firefighter evacuates a dog from a flooded area in northern Serb-dominated part of ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. Heavy rainfall this week across the Balkans has caused rivers to rise dangerously in Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Montenegro, flooding some areas and threatening flood defenses elsewhere. (AP Photo/Bojan Slavkovic)

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