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“Biggest natural disaster in decades”: dam in Slovenia burst

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“Biggest natural disaster in decades”: dam in Slovenia burst

Collapsed bridge in the Slovenian city of Stahovica. A dam has now broken in the east of the country. Photo: Miro Majcen/AP/dpa

According to Prime Minister Golob, Slovenia is struggling with the “biggest natural disaster in decades”. In Austria there is no all-clear after floods.

After the violent storms in Slovenia, a dam in the east of the country broke. The Slovenian news agency STA reported that the plant on the Mur river near Dolnja Bistrica was affected. A total of ten towns are at risk. Evacuation measures are underway there. It is still unclear how many people are involved.

“We have taken the absolutely necessary step of evacuation because it is the only measure to prevent possible casualties,” said Civil Protection Commander Srecko Sestan. “If the water starts to carry away the soil, the dam will collapse immediately and the tidal wave will hit nine or ten villages.” Attempts are now being made to seal the dam with concrete blocks by helicopter, he said.

On the Austrian upper reaches of the Mur, near Graz, the water level continues to rise, said hydrologist Janez Polajnar, according to STA. “The conditions are unpredictable.”

Bad floods in Slovenia

Even before the dam collapsed, disaster relief workers in Slovenia were still rescuing and caring for people as a result of the worst floods and landslides in more than three decades. Several places are cut off from the surrounding area because of the floods and masses of rubble. They are supplied with drinking water and food partly by helicopter, partly by soldiers trying to get to these places on foot. Further flooding is also feared in neighboring Austria; Campsites have been cleared as a precaution.

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The Slovenian police are investigating four deaths to determine whether there is a connection with the storms. The body of a man was found on the bank of the swollen Sava River in the capital Ljubljana on Saturday. The day before, three people had probably died because of the storm. Two of the fatalities are Dutch mountaineers who suffered potentially fatal lightning strikes while hiking. Five more Dutch people are missing in Slovenia, according to the Foreign Ministry in The Hague.

According to Prime Minister Robert Golob, the Adriatic country suffered “probably the greatest damage from a natural disaster in the history of (since 1991) independent Slovenia”. The total damage is expected to exceed 500 million euros, he estimated. The main damage was the road and energy infrastructure as well as hundreds of residential buildings.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged help to Slovenia. The damage in the Adriatic country is “heartbreaking,” she tweeted. The EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Protection, Janez Lenarcic, wanted to discuss this with the government in Ljubljana on Saturday.

More than 3,700 missions

In Dravograd near the border with Austria, 110 people, including 30 tourists, had to be brought to safety after a landslide on Saturday. Another landslide threatened there. The place is located at the confluence of three swelling rivers Drava, Meze and Mislinje. Mayor Anton Preksavec spoke of an “apocalypse of truly biblical proportions,” as reported by STA. At least three other places were affected by landslides.

At least three bridges collapsed, numerous highway sections and country roads are under water. Civil protection reported more than 3,700 operations nationwide within 36 hours. Among other things, people were rescued who had taken refuge on trees or roofs.

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Meanwhile, contrary to initial fears, Croatia has not been hit by major flooding of inhabited areas. However, there was no all-clear. Because of the expected tidal wave on the rivers from neighboring Slovenia to the north, Croatia’s authorities had sandbags piled up and drained river water from rivers in places.

The director of the Croatian Water Management Agency, Zoran Djurokovic, did not rule out minor flooding despite the precautionary measures. Large amounts of water are currently being diverted from the Sava River to the Lonjsko Polje Nature Park in the north of the country. “You have to be careful, because there are many kilometers of shore where an incident can happen,” he said, according to the Internet newspaper index.hr. In the municipality of Brdovec near Zagreb, the water reached about 50 houses.

Austria: Further flooding threatens

In the southern Austrian provinces of Carinthia and Styria, further flooding threatened after new heavy rains. More than 2,500 firefighters were deployed in each of the federal states, as well as dozens of soldiers.

In a southern suburb of the capital of Carinthia, Klagenfurt am Wörthersee, a retention basin had to be pumped out to prevent it from overflowing. In Lavamünd, completely soaked slopes began to slide and threatened residential buildings.

In Leibnitz in Styria, a retirement home was evacuated as a precaution. In another town, people were picked up from their homes by boats and taken to safety. In southern Burgenland, the situation has eased after the recent rainfall.

Because motorways and alternative roads were partly closed due to the flooding, there were traffic jams on the most important transit routes for Croatia vacationers on Saturday morning. Authorities recommended postponing trips to or through northern Slovenia. (dpa)

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