Nato joins Albania rescue effort after Balkan floods

Flooded streets in Shkodra, Albania (6 Dec 2010) The Albanian government has asked Nato for help in the rescue operation

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Nato member states have sent helicopters and supplies to Albania after some of the worst flooding the country has witnessed for decades.

More than 12,000 people have been moved from their homes in the worst areas of Shkodra and Lezha in the north-west and Durres in the west.

In Bosnia, three members of a family died on Sunday when a house was buried in a mudslide caused by heavy rain.

Flooding has also hit Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro.

Five Nato military transport helicopters from Greece and Turkey have been flown into Albania to help the army and local authorities and Italy has sent 25 tonnes of food and clothing to the worst hit areas.

Residents in the town of Shkodra were able to reach their homes only by boat and Prime Minister Sali Berisha described the situation as "very difficult".

A man paddles a boat in Bistrica, Montenegro (6 Dec 2010) Flooding is affecting areas of southern Montenegro

"The evacuation won't be short term," he said.

Areas of farmland surrounding the swollen Lake Shkoder were inundated. The lake straddles Albania's northern border with Montenegro where it is known as Lake Skadarsko.

A state of emergency has been declared in Lezha, south of Shkodra, and Durres, west of the Albanian capital, Tirana.

Although the situation in Montenegro is said to be improving, flooding is still reported south of the capital, Podgorica.

A two-tonne hippopotamus was seen swimming through flood waters some way from its pen in Plavnica.

In Bosnia, the army has evacuated more than 3,000 people in the north-east of the country in the past few days and attempts to stop rivers bursting their banks have failed.

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