June 21, 2014 / 3:05 PM / 5 years ago

Bulgaria struggles with flood damage and begins to count cost

SOFIA (Reuters) - The torrential rain and floods that swept Bulgaria this week have killed 12 people, wrecked part of the Black Sea city of Varna and badly hit agriculture and the important tourism sector, authorities said on Saturday.

A man walks past debris on a street after heavy floods in Varna June 21, 2014. REUTERS/Impact Press Group

The government has yet to estimate the full scale of the damage caused when rivers burst their banks in eastern and central Bulgaria, forcing mass evacuations, but is considering seeking EU aid.

On Saturday, over 1,000 rescue workers and volunteers were struggling to clear mud and rubble left by a flood surge through a suburb of Varna that killed 11, including two children.

European Union Aid chief Kristalina Georgieva arrived in Varna on Saturday and told reporters Bulgaria needed to produce a plan of action quickly to avoid negative effects on the coming holiday season.

There were torrential rains for a second day in a row in the eastern region of Dobrich, where one death was reported. Army officers and firefighters evacuated 950 tourists from two hotels in the Black Sea resort of Albena and another 200 from villages in the region on Friday, police said.

Up to 1,000 Romanian tourists are stranded in Albena, the Romanian foreign ministry said on Saturday.

The resort is also popular with holidaymakers from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Germany.

“There are several negative effects for the economy. Apart from the direct damage to people, there is infrastructure that needs to be restored,” deputy Prime Minister Daniela Bobeva told national Darik radio.

“There are problems with the crop, especially in the region of Dobrich ... that will pose a serious problem for the economy.”

She said damage to Black Sea beaches might cause a drop in the number of tourists visiting the country. Tourism accounts for about 10 percent of Bulgaria’s gross domestic product.

The Balkan country had been hoping for a bumper grain crop matching at least last year’s 4.6 million tonnes of wheat, but heavy rains have delayed the harvest and strong winds have flattened many fields.

The Association of Grain Producers of Bulgaria expects a drop of about 15 percent to below 4.5 million tonnes due to the bad weather and said the crop could be further hit if the rains continued.

Bulgaria’s economy grew by 1.2 percent on the year in the first quarter. Recent political instability has also scared away foreign investment.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; additional reporting by Luiza Ilie in Bucharest; editing by Andrew Roche

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