Balkans Heat Wave Fuels Forest Fires in Bosnia

By IRENA KNEZEVIC | August 23, 2012

Authorities declared a state of emergency Tuesday around a town in Bosnia’s northeast, as a heat wave in the Balkans fuelled wildfires and left people suffering heat exhaustion.

Bratunac Mayor Nedeljko Mladjenovic declared the state of emergency as he said wildfires from several directions threatened his town. Around 50 residents are helping firefighters and forest rangers fight a blaze creeping towards the suburb of Slapasnica, and the town’s civil protection agency has asked for more help from the army and residents.

Meanwhile, in the country’s south, authorities have been fighting wildfires around the town of Konjic for three weeks, and firefighters continue to battle four blazes.

Such fires have been burning in several areas of Bosnia for weeks and the fight to extinguish them has been complicated by the country’s hilly terrain, strong winds, little rainfall and a 104 Fahrenheit heat wave which is forcing people to seek medical assistance.

In the Bosnian capital, Dr. Tigran Elezovic of Sarajevo’s emergency service said Tuesday that since the start of the summer, around 600 people have sought daily help for heat-related health problems.

“We are constantly instructing people to limit their outdoor activity in the period between 10 AM and 7 PM, and to finish whatever they need to do outdoors before 10 in the morning,” he said.

Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, authorities have issued heat warnings, instructing people to stay indoors and drink lots to avoid dehydration.

In neighboring Serbia, authorities have warned people to remain inside and protect themselves from high temperatures, while the Croatian Health Ministry warned Tuesday that “only one careless moment is enough for the heat to become fatal,” and urged people to shower often and drink lots of water.

Croatia has also suffered a number of wildfires throughout the summer, and the coastal municipality of Split has urged the government to postpone the start of the school year because of the heat.

In Serbia, Belgrade city authorities say they will park water tanks on city squares starting Wednesday, and doctors have reiterated warnings about the extreme heat.

(Jovana Gec from Belgrade and Radul Radovanovic from Sarajevo contributed to this report.)

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