The worst flooding in a century in the Balkans is uncovering another menace — landmines

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Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World. The worst floods in more than a century; that's what many residents of Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia are dealing with right now. The death toll after nearly a week of heavy rain and swollen rivers has risen to at least 35 people. In Bosnia alone, officials say up to a million people have been affected. As if all of that weren't bad enough, mudslides and floodwaters have also disturbed thousands of landmines left over from the war in Bosnia in the early 90s. Ahdin Orahovac is with the Bosnia Mine Action Center in Sarajevo. He's very concerned about that. Ahdin Orahovac: We can compare this days as the days after the war, with the same consequences. No infrastructure, no electricity, no water, and more minefields. Werman: Right. Well, this is a natural disaster, but it's kind of like a déjà vu to the war in Bosnia. You've got these land mines now kind of floating up in the river. Can you just break down for us, how many land mines were planted during Bosnia's war, from 92 to 95, and how many unexploded mines remain today? Orahovac: Okay. Immediately after the war, there was two million unexploded mines and unexploded ordinances; 19 years we are dealing with this problem. The last assessment is about 120,000 pieces of mines and UXOs. So generally, the problem is reduced drastically, but still it is a danger for many, many communities. Let me say that in this year, there were 8 mine accidents, but now after this disaster, flooding is more complicating the whole situation. Werman: Tell us how it's complicating the situation. Orahovac: The main problem in Bosnia, and all other countries... There are 90 countries in the world faced with mine action. It is hard to find a mine. If we knew where the mine is, it's a simple job to destroy it, but we are searching. So now it is more complicated because all what we clear, now, is disturbed. Now we have to create new procedures, how to find mines, especially in the landslide areas, and we have to react immediately. The time is essential. Werman: So these mines that were moved by these flood waters, do you have anybody who's been kind of reporting back to you that they have seen them? Orahovac: Yes, we have reports, but also we have experienced five years ago, a river Sava and river [?], they also flooded and then we understood and realized that mines are moving with these conditions. That some people found some unexploded ordinances around their houses after the flood receded. Werman: I don't know much about the engineering of a mine, but doesn't it require some kind of detonation, and if it's been submerged in water, is it still effective? Orahovac: You can activate it only with a touch. So we relay a message to the population rescue teams, "Don't touch anything. Please don't touch it." Werman: Well, we are thinking of you through these floods and this added challenge of these unexploded mines from the Bosnian War in the early 90s. Ahdin Orahovac, deputy director of the Bosnia Mine Action Center, speaking with us from Sarajevo. Thanks for your time. Orahovac: Thank you very much.