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Bosnia Heat Wave Fuels Forest Fires

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Bosnians watch a forest fire at Boracko Lake near the town of Konjic, 50 km south of Sarajevo in Bosnia, Tuesday Aug. 21. 2012. Citizens and tourists began evacuating from Boracko Lake as wildfires reached the houses and tourist camps in the area. (AP Photo/Sulejman Omerbasic)
Bosnians watch a forest fire at Boracko Lake near the town of Konjic, 50 km south of Sarajevo in Bosnia, Tuesday Aug. 21. 2012. Citizens and tourists began evacuating from Boracko Lake as wildfires reached the houses and tourist camps in the area. (AP Photo/Sulejman Omerbasic)

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Authorities on Tuesday declared a state of emergency around a town in Bosnia's northeast and a tourist area was evacuated in the country's south as a heat wave fuelled wildfires across the Balkans and left people suffering heat exhaustion.

Bratunac Mayor Nedeljko Mladjenovic declared the emergency as he said wildfires from several directions were threatening his town. Around 50 residents are helping firefighters and forest rangers fight a blaze creeping towards the suburb of Slapasnica, and the town's civil protection agency has asked for help from the army and residents.

In the country's south, firefighters are battling four blazes around the town of Konjic and townsfolk and tourists have begun evacuating houses near Boracko Lake as the extreme heat and strong winds have hindered the extinguishing of approaching blazes.

Many tourists staying at the lake are Bosnians who live in Germany, returning home for the holidays. Zorica Muskovic arrived last week from Munich.

"This is really not pleasant at all, I am scared. I want to leave as soon as possible," she told the AP.

Aida Gakic from the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, who earlier evacuated two of her children from the resort, said she and her husband were unsure of the local fire brigade's capabilities, so decided to stay put and protect their property.

"We are terrified of the fire and rocks falling down from the mountain. I evacuated my children, and I only stayed behind to defend my weekend house, ` she said.

Many of the fires swept through fields still dotted with mines from the Bosnian War, which took place in the region between 1992 and 1995. The resort is situated on a former frontline.

Tourists said that they could hear loud explosions from the forest as the mines were set off by the blaze

Such fires have been burning in several areas of Bosnia for weeks and the fight to extinguish them has been complicated by the country's hilly terrain, strong winds, little rainfall and a 40-Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) heat wave which is forcing people to seek medical assistance.

In the Bosnian capital, Dr. Tigran Elezovic of Sarajevo's emergency service said Tuesday that since the start of the summer, around 600 people have sought daily help for heat-related health problems.

"We are constantly instructing people to limit their outdoor activity in the period between 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and to finish whatever they need to do outdoors before 10 in the morning," he said.

Elsewhere in the Balkans, authorities have issued heat warnings, instructing people to stay indoors and drink lots to avoid dehydration.

In neighboring Serbia, authorities have warned people to remain inside and protect themselves from high temperatures, while the Croatian Health Ministry warned Tuesday that "only one careless moment is enough for the heat to become fatal," and urged people to shower often and drink lots of water.

Croatia has also suffered a number of wildfires throughout the summer, and the coastal municipality of Split has urged the government to postpone the start of the school year because of the heat.

In Serbia, Belgrade city authorities say they will park water tanks on city squares Wednesday, and doctors have reiterated warnings about the extreme heat.

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Jovana Gec from Belgrade, and Amer Cohadzic, Eldar Emriand and Radul Radovanovic from Sarajevo contributed to this report

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