Serbian authorities help evacuate cows and horses stuck on a river island in cold weather


GARDINOVCI, Serbia (AP) — Serbian authorities on Tuesday started evacuating nearly 200 animals that have been stranded on a river island for weeks and were facing hunger and cold as temperatures dropped across the country.

The cows, calves and horses got stuck on the Krcedinska Ada island in the middle of the Danube river after water levels rose sharply last month, blocking their way back to the shore.

The Danube is Europe’s biggest river, flowing through a number of countries, including Serbia. Krcedinska Ada island is located about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of the capital, Belgrade.

The weather was unseasonably warm in Serbia for weeks late last year, and the Danube had swollen due to the melting of snow upstream. This week, warm weather gave way to a spate of snowy and freezing weather that swept the Balkan region.

Local farmers in the vicinity of Krcedinska Ada said they were caught by surprise by the rising Danube during the warm and dry period. With the weather conditions worsening, the animals are in danger, said Milenko Plavsic, who owns some of the cattle.

“The cattle are in jeopardy. Some died,” he said. Normally, he added, the animals would walk back on their own through shallow waters and return home, some 10 kilometers (6 miles) away.

“The cattle are hungry, water levels are huge so they had nothing to eat.”

Local authorities brought over a fenced river raft so the animals would be safe during transport. It will take several trips to bring back all the animals.

The Serbian government’s Ministry of Agriculture has said that a total of 97 cows, 40 calves and 70 horses were stranded on Krcedinska Ada. The distance from the shore is up to 3 kilometers (2 miles). Most of the animals are privately owned, officials said.

Locals were relieved and grateful for the help: “Finally some good news!” said Zoran Kunic, who heads a cattle-breeders association in the area.

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