‘It is really painful’: expatriates donate Dh300,000 and send aid to help stricken flood victims in Serbia and Bosnia

Hundreds of expatriates have rallied to support their compatriots devastated by severe floods in Serbia and Bosnia.

Displaced and homeless people from the Croatian village of Gunja at a refugee centre in the Bosnian town of Brcko on May 21, 2014. Fehim Demir / EPA
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ABU DHABI // Hundreds of expatriates have rallied to support their compatriots devastated by severe floods in Serbia and Bosnia.

At least three tonnes of aid from the UAE and more than Dh300,000 in donations have been received by the Serbian embassy in Abu Dhabi.

“Nobody expected the floods to get this big,” said Milos Perisic, the Serbian ambassador to the UAE.

“So far, more than 50 people died and they are still discovering bodies. These are the worst floods in the last 120 years and thousands of people are left without homes because so many cities are destroyed.”

The embassy opened a book of condolences on Wednesday.

“I speak with my parents in Belgrade every day,” said Ana Timotic, a former tennis player on the Serbian national team.

“I’m going to Serbia in June and I’ll try to help in any way that I can. I wrote in the book that we’ve gone through so many hardships yet we are still positive. So I’m sure that with the help of everyone around the world we will get through.”

Ms Timotic, who owns a tennis academy in Dubai, said she would collect donations from her clients.

“Some people are not aware of the situation, so I want to try to explain it to them,” she said.

Donations so far have included clothes, linens, blankets and baby food.

“We were promised by the state-owned Julphar pharmacy in Ras Al Khaimah a huge amount of medicine,” said Mr Perisic. “We have many Serbians working in more than 30 companies here, from Al Dahra to Yas Waterworld and Starwood Hotels, which will also send linens.”

It is believed that about 10,000 Serbian expatriates live in the UAE.

Mr Perisic said Air Serbia, Etihad Airways and Emirates Airline would provide free cargo flights to transport the aid to the Red Cross.

“We have to rebuild the country now because there is also a big risk of disease,” he said. “We organised two humanitarian events in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and plan on organising more because 100,000 people are displaced. We need to rebuild their homes.”

Bosnia has also been hit hard by the floods.

“The people in Bosnia are going through a very hard period because the situation is the same, if not worse, than after the war when I was there,” said Aleksandar Dragicevic, the ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the UAE.

“We’d like to invite people from the UAE to help us because there are more than 50 dead and more than 20,000 displaced. I’m sure it will increase.”

He met local officials and Emirates Red Crescent representatives, who promised to send baby food and shelters.

“We plan on opening a book of condolences and we’re receiving support from companies and citizens, like blankets, tents, medicine and baby food. But we will need financial aid,” said Mr Dragicevic, whose parents’ apartment was destroyed.

“So far, we have one full truck of aid from Dubai.”

The floods across both countries at the weekend were caused by torrential rainfall, which also triggered thousands of landslides.

About 2,500 Bosnian expatriates live in the UAE.

Lejla Pezer, a Bosnian resident in Abu Dhabi, said she and other residents were gathering as many donations as possible for the displaced

“We’re donating items, which are the most necessary, like for hygiene, but the biggest problem is for babies – clothes and food,” she said.

Behar Bejko, the Albanian ambassador to the UAE, said more help was needed.

“We see the region as a family and we can’t progress without each other,” he said. “We see these pictures, and we have a feeling of solidarity.”