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Belgrade Hosts Flood Relief Conference

Floodwaters rising on the Sava River to the west of Belgrade on May 21
Serbia is hosting a donors conference in Belgrade on May 22 to help deal with devastating floods that have wreaked havoc in the Balkans this week.

The conference, announced by Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, comes as floodwaters at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers in Belgrade are reaching their peak -- the worst flood in the Balkans in more than a century.

Johannes Hahn, the European Union commissioner responsible for regional policy, says Serbia likely will qualify for disaster relief from the European Solidarity Fund as an EU candidate.

But he says the final amount of aid won’t be decided until later this summer.

Bosnia-Herzegovina, also hard hit by flooding, is not an EU candidate country and doesn't qualify for the European Solidarity Fund.

But Hahn says Brussels could reallocate EU funds to help Sarajevo.

Some 400 relief workers from 19 EU member states are currently in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to help flood victims.

Both countries have begun counting the cost of flooding that has left at least 49 people dead and forced some 150,000 to flee their homes.

Officials say recovery from the floods is expected to cost billions of euros.

In Bosnia, authorities say they fear the damage may exceed that caused in the country by the entire 1992-95 Balkan war.

Water began receding in some parts of Bosnia on May 21, but the situation remains tense elsewhere – particularly, in Belgrade where a flood peak is expected late in the week.

A landmine dislodged by the flooding exploded in the Brcko district of northern Bosnia on May 21, one of the more than 120,000 mines left over from the war. No one was hurt.

But authorities say the incident highlights the dangers of a huge cleanup operation amid fears that more landmines could be triggered.

That's because some mines are made of plastic and can float, while others made of metal can be easily washed away in rushing waters.

Other finds thought to date from the 1992-95 war include a rocket launcher and a large plastic bin full of bombs and ammunition.

With reporting from Reuters and AP
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