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We are facing floods similar to those of 1990, 1998 and 2004

SLOVENIA, August 4 - “We call on people to stay at home, heed the warnings of the competent authorities and stay away from watercourses and rescue sites,” was the joint appeal of all those present at today’s joint press conference of the Environment Agency and the Administration of the Republic of Slovenia for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief.

Meteorologist Brane Gregorčič began by saying that the bleakest scenarios had come true: the amount of rain that fell during the night was even higher than expected –  more than 200 mm of rain fell in 12 hours. The weather station at the Brnik Airport has never before recorded such a quantity of rain within 12 hours. The heaviest precipitation fell mainly in the foothills of the Julian Alps and then along the line of the Zidanško–Idrija region, through Gorenjska towards Koroška and the Upper Savinjska region, while during the day and overnight the precipitation will move to the south-east of Slovenia – to the Kočevje, Kolpa and Bela Krajina regions. Therefore the highest risk level has been declared for these regions.

Hydrologist Janez Polajnar said that the situation is very serious, with floods similar to those of 1990, 1998 and 2004 – with the centre of gravity shifting towards southern and eastern Slovenia. He emphasised that the centre of gravity of today’s rainfall will slowly shift from central, western and northern Slovenia to southern and then to south-eastern and eastern Slovenia, causing flooding of the River Krka and its tributaries, the River Sava and its tributaries in the lower reaches, i.e. in the Posotelje and the Posavje regions, as well as the rivers in the Štajerska region in the area of Slovenske Gorice and  the entire Dravinja River basin. He particularly highlighted the developments along the River Sava, where the flood wave is moving towards Brežice and the outflow from the country, where the discharge of the river will be close to record levels. Problems are also expected at the confluence of the Sava and Krka rivers, as the water levels of the two are extremely high.

Polajnar also mentioned that the discharge of the River Drava will continue to increase due to the (announced) measures on the Austrian side of the Drava and finally stressed that the situation is not expected to calm down until Sunday.

All teams are also activated at the Slovenian Water Agency, where, together with the Civil Protection, they are implementing emergency intervention measures, such as increasing the flow capacity of river and stream beds, installing temporary embankments and diverting water, in order to control the damage as much as possible and to protect people and property.

Civil Protection Commander Srečko Šestan stressed that all teams are on the ground and underlined the good coordination and readiness to help at the highest inter-ministerial level. He said the situation is presently worst in the Savinja Valley, Gorenjska and Koroška regions, where a bridge on the main transport link was swept away. There are problems with interrupted communication links, but the Slovenian Armed Forces are expected to eventually assist in re-establishing them, according to Šestan.

Minister Šarec began by saying that all teams had been on the ground since the morning. First they were saving lives, now they are saving everything else. Fortunately, the situation is slowly improving. Although the SAF are not on standby, 250 soldiers with all available equipment are already on the ground, especially in Koroška. The air units of the SAF and the Police have been deployed since this morning and, if necessary, armoured vehicles will be used to carry out rescues. All Civil Protection forces have been activated as well. With data on road trafficability and accessibility to locations changing by the hour, almost the whole of Slovenia is experiencing road trafficability problems. There are enough people on the ground for now.

Minister Šarec also said that he had already been in contact with European Commissioner Lenarčič and reiterated that what is happening in Slovenia these days is a combination of floods since 1990. The most important thing at the moment is to organise the work and replace teams that might be tired and exhausted. There is enough aid or flood bags and other equipment available that will be distributed on the basis of reported needs from the regional headquarters.

Various information about possible casualties is circulating in the public, but both Minister Šarec and Civil Protection Commander Šestan stressed that it is not possible to give officially confirmed information at the moment, as it is changing rapidly and there are no established communication links with some areas.

“All that the public needs to know at the moment is that all the teams are on the ground and trying to help. Follow the warnings and stay away from watercourses,” stressed Minister Šarec once again at the end of the press conference.