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Worst natural disaster ever to hit Slovenia

The situation in Slovenia was presented at a press conference by Slovenian Prime Minister Robert Golob, Minister of Defence Marjan Šarec, Minister of the Interior Boštjan Poklukar, Commander of the Civil Protection of the Republic of Slovenia Srečko Šestan and hydrologist of the Slovenian Environment Agency Janez Polajnar.
Janez Polajnar, Boštjan Poklukar, Marjan Šarec, Robert Golob in Srečko Šestan talk to the press.

Hydrologist Janez Polajnar, Minister Boštjan Poklukar, Minister Marjan Šarec, Prime Minister Robert Golob and Commander of the Civil Protection of the Republic of Slovenia Srečko Šestan talk to the press. | Author Katja Kodba, STA

All participants in the press statement called on the Slovenian population to exercise extreme caution in the current weather conditions and to strictly follow the instructions of all competent services on the ground. They assured that all available units were on the ground to provide all necessary assistance in rescuing people and minimising material damage. In order to manage the aftermath of the storm as effectively as possible and to ensure that aid reaches people and municipalities as quickly as possible, an expanded National Security Council meeting has been convened for tomorrow, to be followed by an extraordinary government session. Slovenia also intends to accept assistance offered from abroad.

Prime Minister Robert Golob expressed his condolences to the family of the victim and wished a speedy recovery to all those who were injured in the storm. He also expressed his sincere gratitude to the members of the Civil Protection, the Fire Brigades, the Police, the Slovenian Armed Forces and all the volunteers who are working on the ground, whatever the hour and whatever the situation.

He went on to say that a meeting of the National Security Council had been convened for tomorrow "because we want all political players, including the opposition, to unite in order to stand together in times like these and to be as effective as possible in the measures that politics has to offer and implement for the benefit of the people." This meeting will be followed by a regular government session to discuss, among other things, amendments to the Natural Disaster Recovery Act. They will also discuss the assistance offered by Brussels and other countries.

He urged people not to travel unless they have vital tasks to perform, as this would not only put themselves in danger, but also the intervention and rescue teams. He added that the Government of the Republic of Slovenia was aware of the situation, in particular the extensive damage to infrastructure.

Defence Minister Marjan Šarec went on to say that up to 500 soldiers were available, although not all of them arrived at the locations yet. He expressed the hope that by tomorrow, the roads would be passable enough for the teams to reach the affected sites. He added that Slovenia would, of course, accept international assistance, both through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and from other countries. "But the fact is that things need to calm down to the extent that we can deploy teams from abroad efficiently, because it's not only the number of people that matters, but also the organisation of the work", said Minister Šarec.

Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar went on to say that despite the catastrophic floods in most parts of Slovenia, the internal security system was operating normally. The Slovenian police have been carrying out both regular and emergency tasks since the early hours of the morning, in accordance with the National Flood Protection and Rescue Plan. He asked all Slovenian citizens to respect the warnings and instructions of the police and all relevant services. "What we need to do at this moment is to ensure that all the intervention services can do their job. I ask all the people of Slovenia to stay at home. We are already providing assistance to those affected and will continue to do so," concluded Minister Poklukar.

The Commander of the Civil Protection of the Republic of Slovenia, Srečko Šestan, first of all thanked his units for today's response, and in particular the helicopter units of the Slovenian Police and the Slovenian Armed Forces, each of which used three helicopters to rescue people who left their homes too late or were unable to leave their homes at all. He expressed his confidence that the rescuing would continue to be successful and that there would be as little material damage as possible and as few human casualties as possible.

Janez Polajnar, a hydrologist at the Slovenian Environment Agency, said that flood conditions were now moving from the already affected areas to the middle and lower parts of the river channels. The flow of the Sava River has already reached a record high level in the vicinity of Ljubljana. The Savinja River level is not expected to fall significantly this evening, but the Drava River level is not expected to rise further. He said that Austria had announced that it would slightly reduce the flow of river water into Slovenia. The Mura River, however, will continue to rise slightly. In the event of heavier rains, torrential spills of smaller rivers and streams are still possible, which will contribute additional water to the larger rivers. We expect hydrological conditions to start easing during the day on Saturday, concluded hydrologist Janez Polajnar.

As the weather situation remains extremely serious, residents of Slovenia are advised not to go out on non-urgent errands and to call 112 only in case of a real emergency.