The Slovenia Times

Damage after 'apocalyptic' flooding to pass €500 million

Environment & Nature
The town of Kamnik submerged after severe floods on 5 August.
Photo: Mountain Rescue

Having been pounded by heavy rains for more than 36 hours, Slovenia has begun to come to terms with the impact of what many of those affected have described as apocalyptic flooding. Prime Minister Robert Golob has assessed the damage will likely exceed €500 million.

Addressing reporters after the National Security Council was briefed on the situation on 5 August, Golob said two-thirds of the country were affected in what is the worst natural disaster to hit the country in the last thirty-plus years.

"Slovenia's road and energy infrastructure, as well as residential buildings are largely damaged. We're talking about hundreds of buildings," Golob said, adding that it would take massive effort to restore life to normal.

Meeting for an emergency session, the government adopted legislative amendments so that affected municipalities can get state aid faster, before the final damage assessments are made. Despite summer recess, parliament is meeting next week to pass the legislation.

A number of countries and the EU have offered assistance and the government tasked the Defence Ministry and the Administration for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief to formulate requests. Defence Minister Marjan Šarec said Slovenia would ask for aid in the form of machinery, foremost trucks and pontoon bridges.

The government also allocated €10 million in humanitarian aid to be distributed among the residents in the flood-stricken areas by the country's two major charities.

Many towns and villages still cut off

Even though flood waters began to recede after the rain stopped, many villages and towns remain cut off after bridges and sections of the roads were swept away and or blocked by landslides and floodwaters.

However, troops managed to reach Črna na Koroškem, a town in a narrow valley in the northern Koroška region, which has been without power, water or telecommunications since morning on 4 August.

Head of the Civil Protection and Disaster Relief Administration Leon Behin said military and police helicopters delivered food and water supplies to Črna, while airlifting people in need from the area. The aircraft are also delivering fuel for generators to maintain basic communication.

Defence Minister Šarec said that another unit of the Slovenian Armed Forces was making its way on foot to Ljubno and Solčava in the upper Savinja Valley to the south.

In the municipality of Ljubno, floods and landslides swept away four homes and 15 to 20 people are now homeless. However, Radio Slovenija has reported that a road link has been established with Ljubno, where many tourists have been stranded.

Apocalypse of biblical proportions

The Meža River has been flooding along its entire course, sweeping away bridges from Črna to Dravograd, a town at the confluence of the swollen Drava, Meža and Mislinja rivers.

"Yesterday, the municipality of Dravograd experienced an apocalypse of truly biblical proportions," the town's Mayor Anton Preksavec told the Slovenian Press Agency, using the same word that has been repeated by people witnessing the disaster throghout the country.

The situation in other parts of Koroška remains difficult, including in Ravne na Koroškem, and in Slovenj Gradec, where the Mislinja also washed away part of the main road to Dravograd.

Many other parts of the country remain in dire situation, including the Medvode area north-west of Ljubljana and Kamnik to the north of the capital, where evacuations continued with helicopters.

Civil Protection commander Srečko Šestan said that thousands of people had been evacuated from various parts of the country, including many foreign tourists, mostly from campsites. The latest one affected was the one in Čatež ob Savi, a popular spa and water park.

With water damaging many bridges, he said that all bridges in the affected areas would have to be inspected to see if they are still fit for traffic, and pontoon bridges may have to be set up.

Parts of Ljubljana have also been affected, in particular those along the Sava River and Gradaščica. The Sava wiped out the kayak centre in Tacen, an ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup site.

Another death

A man was found dead on one of the banks of the Sava on 5 August, a few hundred metres away from his home. The Ljubljana Police Department said initial inquiries suggest the death could be related to the floods, but the investigating is ongoing.

If their suspicions are confirmed, it would be the fourth weather-related death over the past two days after an elderly woman was reported to have drowned in Kamnik and two Dutch tourists were found dead in the mountains near Kranj area, allegedly after being struck by lightning.

In early June, a 40-year-old woman died after being swept along by a torrential stream in Zagorje ob Savi in central Slovenia, and in July a 32-year-old woman, reportedly a German, was killed by a tree knocked down by a fierce storm in Bled.

Help offered from abroad

Condolences and expressions of solidarity have been pouring in from abroad with several countries as well as the EU offering help.

"Heartbreaking to follow the devastation caused by colossal floods in Slovenia. The EU is by the side of the Slovenian people. We will mobilise support as needed," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted.

Janez Lenarčič, the Slovenian member of the Commission, who is responsible for crisis management, said Slovenia was expected to apply for aid from the European Solidarity Fund.

Speaking after joining the government for the emergency session, Lenarčič said that while Slovenia had already requested assistance through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, it had more options at its disposal.

President Nataša Pirc Musar also urged people to help in relief efforts once the waters have receded. The government will produce a detailed plan, but post-flood efforts will also require solidarity, she said.

The session of the National Security Council, which was also attended by representatives of the opposition, heard calls from everyone present that this was the time to set political divisions aside.

Opposition leaders Janez Janša and Matej Tonin also called for the state to delegate more of its relief funds and decision-making powers to local communities, including when it comes to flood defences.


More from Environment & Nature