Flood toll rises in southern France

Tuesday, 10 September, 2002, 14:28 GMT 15:28 UK

Flooded garage and streetAt least 27 people have been killed in floods which have swept through parts of southern France, the authorities say. Police are searching for at least 12 others. The floods were triggered by torrential rain which swept across the Gard, Herault and Vaucluse departments.

As the flood waters rose, power supplies and telephone lines were cut to tens of thousands of homes. At least 1,000 people were evacuated, and several bridges were swept away. A dam burst in the village of Aramon, near Nimes, causing 11 deaths there alone. Transport was badly hit. Many rail services were suspended and roads were closed.

Many of the dead came from the Nimes area, although villages outside Avignon and Uzes were also hit, and the town of Orange was badly flooded. The victims included a firefighter who died after rescuing a couple trapped in their car in the village of Galargues in Herault.

French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, went to the flood zone to see the devastation, and promised an initial emergency aid package of 10 million euros (6.2m). "I have come here to show emotion and national solidarity for all our compatriots," Mr Raffarin said in Sommieres, one of the worst-hit places.

Man calling for help in SommieresForecasters said the worst of the rain had passed, and the waters were expected to recede during Tuesday.

Local authorities declared a state of alert on Monday as the flood waters rose. Two motorways, the A9 and A7, had to be closed on Monday, leaving drivers with no other routes to and from the Mediterranean. Officials appealed to motorists to stay at home.

"We strongly urge people not to drive in the Gard and Vaucluse departments," said a spokesman for the Regional Traffic Information Centre (CRIR).

Rail travel was also severely disrupted. The high-speed TGV service was suspended when a tree fell onto the line. Rail travellers to south-eastern France were urged to postpone their journeys.

Vineyards producing Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine were also deluged.

The floods come only weeks after large parts of central and eastern Europe suffered their worst flooding in decades, killing dozens and causing devastation in many historic towns and cities.

In France, the authorities said that Nimes' Roman arena and other remains had not been damaged, but there were still fears for some of the region's other historic treasures.


Deadly floods hit southern France

Monday, 9 September, 2002, 17:42 GMT 18:42 UK

BBC News

At least 10 people have been killed in floods which have swept through parts of southern France. Up to 40,000 homes were without power, 1,000 people were evacuated, and several bridges were swept away as torrential rain flooded large areas of the Gard department. The Herault and Vaucluse departments were also hit.

Hundreds of troops were being sent to the area to help, said the AP news agency. The 300 soldiers were reportedly joining forces with up to 500 other rescuers.

More severe rainstorms were forecast for Monday night, moving towards Marseilles.

Local authorities declared a state of alert as the flood waters rose. Most of the dead came from the areas around Avignon, Nimes and Uzes. The town of Orange was badly flooded. Vineyards producing Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine were also deluged.

Two motorways, the A9 and A7, had to be closed, leaving drivers with no other routes to and from the Mediterranean. Officials appealed to motorists to stay at home. "We strongly urge people not to drive in the Gard and Vaucluse departments," said a spokesman for the Regional Traffic Information Centre (CRIR).

Rail travel was also severely disrupted. The high-speed TGV service was suspended when a tree fell onto the line. Rail travellers to south-eastern France were urged to postpone their journeys.

"The situation remains very alarming," said a police spokesman in Nimes. Emergency services faced high-risk situations as they tried to deal with the cascading waters.

Some rescue vehicles were themselves swept away, and a firefighter was left critically ill after rescuing a couple trapped in their car in the village of Galargues in Herault.

The floods come only weeks after large parts of central and eastern Europe suffered their worst flooding in decades, killing dozens and causing devastation in many historic towns and cities.


Menacing Danube rises in Budapest

Sunday, 18 August, 2002, 22:01 GMT 23:01 UK

Submerged restaurants in BudapestBBC News

In Hungary, the river Danube has broken record levels along 170 kilometres (110 miles) of its length and is expected to peak in Budapest in the early hours of Monday morning. So far the city's defences continue to hold and the authorities are cautiously optimistic that the catastrophic flooding experienced elsewhere in the region will be avoided. Thousands of soldiers and volunteers have been working frantically to reinforce the defences. About 2,000 people have been evacuated.

Water levels on the River Elbe in Germany are finally receding in Saxony and its capital Dresden, but more people have been evacuated in towns downstream in neighbouring Saxony-Anhalt.

The European Union has pledged to release funds to assist the countries affected. Commission President Romano Prodi made the announcement at a meeting in the German capital, Berlin, of leaders of four of the countries worst affected.

Nearly 100 people have now died in the floods, and the clean-up bill is expected to run into billions of dollars.

Mayor confident

Nervous townspeople in Budapest have been working around the clock to reinforce sandbag defences, and the BBC's Nick Thorpe says they are getting tired.

The flow of the Danube appeared to speed up on Sunday evening as the water reached a height of 8.49 meters (28.3 feet) , breaking the previous record of 8.45 meters (27.7 feet) set in 1965. Meteorologists said the river was likely to crest at 8.6 meters (28.7 feet) at dawn Monday - lower than previous predictions.

Hungarian Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy returned from holiday for an emergency session of the government, which pledged more money for flood defences.

But Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky said his city would escape the devastation suffered by some German and Czech cities. "Budapest will not be in the situation of Passau, Prague or Dresden," he told Reuters news agency. "Fortunately our forefathers were wise enough to plan and build these banks in very good quality in the second half of the 19th century."

However, our Budapest correspondent says that once the river peaks, the danger will be of a different nature - not that the waters pour over the city's defences, but that they seep through or under them, undermining the efforts of the past week.

German woes

Flood waters in the east German city of Dresden peaked at record levels of 9.39 metres on Saturday - the highest since records began in the 16th century - before stabilising and falling below the 9-metre-mark. However, water levels continued to rise elsewhere, forcing the evacuation of nearby towns on the River Elbe and its tributaries.

Thousands were evacuated from around the town of Wittenberg, the latest in a series of communities to be hit. And a military operation is in full swing in Bitterfeld, home to a large complex of chemical factories. Half of the town is under water and people are desperate to stop any chemicals from the complex from flowing into the River Mulde. Army helicopters are constantly ferrying supplies for those trying to build the dam to block up the river.

The BBC's James Coomarasamy says people there are still in a state of shock and are concerned about what might happen to their town.

Residents have started to return to their homes in the Czech capital, Prague, where a massive clean-up has begun as flood waters recede. But they have been warned to stay away until tests are carried out to ascertain the safety of flooded buildings.


Dresden flood reaches record peak

August 17, 2002

People sit in front of Dresden's Semper Opera houseDRESDEN, Germany (CNN) -- The Elbe River reached its highest point in the east German city of Dresden early on Saturday, after rising steadily for days. About 33,000 Dresden residents have been forced to flee their homes in the city as the waters inundated one neighbourhood after the other. Galleries and museums have struggled to rescue great pieces of art from the murky, muddy waters.

The river crested at 9.39 metres (30.8 feet) on Saturday morning officials said, well above the 8.77 metre record of 1845, and nearly 7.5 metres above normal.

The city's mayor said the damage in Dresden would total more than 100 million euros.

Officials fear architectural gems of Dresden, destroyed by British and U.S. bombers in 1945 and only renovated in recent years, would be badly damaged.

Dresden is just one of scores of towns in Germany's former communist east ravaged by the deluge. Ten people have died across the country while around people 100 have died across Europe as a whole.

Along with Germany, flooding has hit communities in the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Russia, and Romania.

German officials said European Commission President Romano Prodi would visit Berlin on Sunday for talks on the flood damage with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder as well as leaders from Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Volunteers continued to place sandbags overnight near historic buildings in Dresden, home of priceless art treasures.

Although many parts of Dresden remained dry, the historic inner city rebuilt after World War II -- including architectural landmarks like the Zwinger Palace, the Semper Opera and the Royal Palace -- was flooded. German officials have continued to evacuate nearby towns on the River Elbe around Dresden, the capital of Saxony 200 kilometres (120 miles) south of Berlin. Meissen, famous for its porcelain, was among those affected, officials said.

Regions along the flooded rivers face a multi-billion-euro clean up. In the Czech capital Prague, some residents returned home as waters retreated there, but flooding continued elsewhere in the country and damage estimates were rising rapidly.

Officials said some towns and villages were almost completely devastated. In the Slovakian capital of Bratislava, the River Danube began to recede from its highest level in 50 years and soldiers began to remove sandbag barriers erected to hold the mighty river back from the city's mediaeval centre.

As the swollen waters began to recede in Bratislava, they reached Hungary, where water levels broke all-time records on the upper section of the Danube, Europe's largest inland shipping route.

NATO said its disaster relief arm was coordinating assistance for the Czech Republic and had offered its support to five other central European countries, including Germany.


Dresden floods reach all-time high

August 16, 2002

The Zwinger Castle is flooded by the nearby swollen Elbe River.DRESDEN, Germany (CNN) -- Authorities are evacuating thousands of people from the centre of the German city of Dresden as floodwaters in the Elbe River reach an all-time high. The Elbe -- fed by high water that has already devastated Prague -- rose to about 8.9 metres (above 29 feet) overnight on Friday, breaking the previous all-time high of 8.76 metres (28.75 feet) reached in 1845. The river is still rising and is expected to crest at around nine metres later on Friday. Much of the historic centre of Dresden has been evacuated.

Efforts to prevent flooding of buildings around the city's central plaza, which includes the opera house and other historic structures, had to be abandoned as the water rose. Pumps that were spewing water out of basements were turned off and removed. Police said that much of the historic area of the city had been evacuated, and guests in a number of riverside hotels were also told to leave. Up to 30,000 people are being evacuated in the city.

To help lower water levels, a railway bridge downstream from Dresden was demolished with explosives to open up a flood plain to reduce the flow in the main river channel, military officials said. Throughout Thursday, citizens, police and troops worked together to set up a sandbag wall in the centre of the city as other workers rushed to rescue art treasures.

Dresden's Zwinger Palace, host to one of Europe's great art museums, was partially under water as volunteers moved thousands of pieces of artwork from the basement and ground floor to higher levels. Similar activity was under way at Albertinum Museum, where officials rushed thousands of sculptures and Old Masters artworks to safe ground, but other works were too cumbersome to move and are now threatened. Many other galleries in the city also are in basements.

Firefighters were pumping out the basement of the Semper Opera, and Dresden's railway station resembled a swimming pool.

Hospitals were evacuated. Intensive care patients were airlifted to other hospitals and other patients were taken by ambulance.

The Elbe River at Dresden was being fed in part by floodwater coming from the Vltava River, which had earlier flooded the Czech capital of Prague, where the water level was dropping on Thursday. That city's historic bridges survived the river's raging current, but the floodwater caused uncalculated damage to Prague's historic centre.

Czech authorities on Thursday turned their attention to a massive clean-up operation and responded to spot emergencies, such as a scare over a chlorine leak at a flooded chemical plant in a town north of Prague. After warning residents living near the plant they might have to evacuate, authorities later said the situation had stabilized and the material released was not harmful.

Actor Sean Connery, who is on location in Prague to make a film, said he was taken aback by the destruction the flooding brought to the picturesque city but heartened by the response of many to help in the crisis. "I don't know if the world realizes the depths of the disaster," he said.

The floods are among several that have killed around 100 people across Europe. Along with Germany and the Czech Republic, flooding has hit communities in Austria, Slovakia, Russia, and Romania.

Across Saxony, the eastern German state where Dresden is located, authorities estimate damage to be at least €1 billion ($980 million U.S.).

Among at least eight dead in Dresden was a 71-year-old man who drowned Monday night. German authorities said two other adults and a child were missing after being swept away by a cascade of mud and water. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has promised millions in aid to flood-stricken parts of the country.

Meanwhile, in the Czech Republic, some 200,000 people were evacuated. In Prague officials said some evacuees would be allowed to move back to their homes in a couple of days, but others may have to wait for two weeks before they return.

City officials said it is difficult to estimate the cost of the damage until the water recedes completely -- at least another four days -- but indications show it will be at least 60 billion crowns ($2 billion). The Czech government is to launch an appeal for international bank loans and aid, including a request for money from the European Union, which the Czech Republic hopes to join.

Downriver from Prague, a civilian was killed by shrapnel Thursday when Czech forces blew up runaway barges that threatened to slam into bridges. Eleven people have been killed in flood-related incidents in the Czech Republic.

Zuzana Bluh, spokeswoman for the Czech Embassy in London, said there are flooding problems in towns throughout the country and cited the medieval town of Cesky Krumlov in southern Bohemia. "The town is completely under water," Bluh said. "It is doubtful if many of the medieval buildings can withstand the damage."

Cesky Krumlov, a UNESCO-designated world historical town known as the "Renaissance jewel," is unlikely to be open for the rest of the tourist season after its historic center was submerged, Bluh said.

In neighbouring Slovakia, a state of emergency was announced in Bratislava as the Danube River rose. Officials expect the river to crest on Friday. The flooding is being called the worst in a century in Austria, where thousands have been evacuated from the Salzburg and Upper Austria provinces. In Russia, at least 58 people in the Black Sea region were killed by flooding last week.


Floods wreak havoc in Germany -- Europe's worst floods for more than a century

Thursday, 15 August, 2002, 16:46 GMT 17:46 UK

BBC News

German towns are devastated as waters surge northwardsA dam has burst in south-eastern Germany as flood waters sweep northwards from the Czech Republic, spreading chaos in Europe's worst floods for more than a century.

The dam at Bitterfeld collapsed around midday, sending the Mulde River cascading towards the town, whose 16,000 inhabitants are being urgently evacuated. A large chemical plant at Bitterfeld is unlikely to be flooded, the authorities say, but there are fears of environmental damage after a chlorine gas leak from a Czech plant near the German border.

The swollen Elbe is surging towards Dresden, where the water level is rising at around 20 centimetres per hour and many of its bridges have become impassable. Magdeburg, north-west of Dresden, is braced for a state of emergency at the weekend when the waters are forecast to hit the city.

Residents in three districts have been told they must leave their homes by Saturday and seek refuge elsewhere. Schools in the city are being transformed into temporary shelters.

In the Czech capital Prague, Bavaria and Austria, meanwhile, the situation has eased as water levels have started to drop.

Elbe watch

The German Environment Ministry has set up an emergency team to monitor the Elbe for toxic leaks. A cloud of chlorine gas escaped from a flood-damaged Czech chemical plant across the border near the town of Usti nad Labem. A spokesman for the Spolana plant said the gas was being dispersed by wind but a third-degree chemical alert was issued to local people.

The Elbe river rises, breaking recordsFed by the Vltava, which flows through Prague, the Elbe is rushing through the north of the Czech Republic into the German state of Saxony. Czech authorities blew up five barges after they broke loose from their moorings at the border town of Decin and threatened to career upstream towards Dresden. In Dresden itself, the Elbe is already eight metres above normal and is expected to rise to levels not seen for more than 100 years. The situation is becoming critical in Dessau, where the Elbe and the Mulde river merge. Volunteers are stacking sandbags along the banks after a sudden rise in river levels. The towns of Magdeburg and Muehlberg are also on alert.

Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated around the region and emergency teams have been sent from around Germany to shore up rescue efforts. Workers have been pumping water from Dresden's Zwinger Palace art gallery, where precious paintings, including Rembrandts, have been moved to upper floors. And nearly 200 patients from the intensive care unit of the local hospital have been evacuated by air and land to hospitals in other cities across Germany. At least nine people have died in Saxony alone, which has been promised federal aid. A fireman died in Pirna while trying to rescue people trapped by the waters.


Prague's Old Town was spared when the Vltava river stopped just short of hastily-built flood defences on Wednesday but the Czech capital faces a clean-up bill of hundreds of millions of dollars. Thousands of people are still unable to return home as electricity and sewerage supplies remain cut off, and the death toll has reached at least 11.

In neighbouring Slovakia, the capital, Bratislava, remains on high alert since the Danube river rose to almost 10 metres higher than normal - its highest level for a century. A state of emergency is in force, people have been evacuated and the situation is being monitored by helicopter.

The river has already wrought havoc in Austria and southern Bavaria, where some cleaning-up efforts have already begun as the waters recede. Seven people in Austria died in the floods.


Dresden evacuated as waters rise -- River Elbe highest since 1845, Danube may beat flood record set in 1500

August 15, 2002 Posted: 6:21 PM EDT (2221 GMT)

People travel by boat through DresdenDRESDEN, Germany (CNN) -- Central Dresden was being evacuated late Thursday amid fears that a wave might wash over the city after a dam break downstream. All efforts to save the historic buildings in the city were abandoned, said officials, who expect flooding to reach a peak by 1 a.m. Friday (7 p.m. EDT).

The level of the swollen River Elbe is already well above the predicted peak, and although the dam that broke is downstream of the city, officials expect a rebounding wave to sweep into Dresden. The river has reached heights not seen since 1845.

The latest danger from the flooding which has devastated whole areas of Europe and killed more than 100 came as a state of emergency was announced in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava. Soldiers reinforced flood barriers along the Danube amid concern that the worst of the floods will not arrive until Friday when water levels could reach their highest since 1500.

In the Czech Republic, potentially deadly chlorine gas was leaking into the air from a chemical plant near Prague after flood waters damaged the factory, the plant's owner Unipetrol said. A third-degree alert was issued -- the highest level short of evacuation -- as a huge yellow cloud rose from the Spolana plant, 12 miles north of Prague on the Elbe.

Greenpeace said 90 percent of the company sites were under water. "The impact from flooding at the chemical factory escalated this afternoon when a chlorine cloud forced residents to seek safety indoors," the environmental campaign organization said.

In Prague, scene of some of the worst flooding, water levels were receding but the cost to the city alone was said to be likely to pass the $2 billion mark. International aid agencies stepped up efforts to try and help the victims across a swathe of European countries.

Meanwhile the Austrian government said it would delay tax cuts and cut its order of Eurofighter jets from 24 to 18 in a bid to keep control over its budget after announcing a financial aid package for flood victims. The original Eurofighter deal was worth $1.8 billion. No final contract had been signed. Seven people died and some 10,000 homes are thought to have been left uninhabitable by floods in northern Austria earlier this week.

Towns at risk

In Dresden, CNN's Gaven Morris said the atmosphere in city was "very much one of an emergency in progress." Irina Duevel, a spokeswoman for Lower Saxony's Interior Ministry, said: "The tributaries around the Elbe are overflowing and the Elbe is still rising." Other German towns at risk include Dessau and Bitterfeld, home of pharmaceuticals giant Bayer AG. One-hundred million euros of aid have been pledged by the government to help those directly affected, but Saxony says 1 billion euros will be needed. Exodus scenes, with people fleeing to the suburbs with their luggage, were described as being reminiscent of World War II.


The flooding is being called the worst for a century in Austria, where thousands of people have been evacuated from the Salzburg and Upper Austria provinces. Johannes Guger, head of international relations for the Red Cross, told CNN that seven people had been killed in the floods. Eight thousand soldiers and firefighters were battling to shore up weakening dams with sandbags, but the raging Danube has already broken through defences in the town of Ybbs in Lower Austria province. More than 1,000 buildings in Salzburg are under water, Austrian radio reported. P. Schadl, wrote an e-mail from Vienna to CNN, which said: "These are our darkest hours but together we are strong."


Dresden, in particular, is waiting for the flood wave to arrive from Prague. Nine people have already died in the worst affected area of Saxony while about 20,000 people have been evacuated, including hospital patients. In an e-mail to CNN resident Peggy Steiniger, wrote: "I'm writing on behalf of my friend, who lives in a small town near Dresden, that got hit by the water really bad. '...It's the worst nightmare you can ever imagine!' she said this morning (via mobile phone).'"


Russia has suffered twice this summer from severe flooding. Most of the victims in the latest downpours have been Russian tourists taking their holidays on the Black Sea. Many of the 58 victims were swept away by swiftly moving water late last week. Authorities fear the toll could rise. Thirty cars and buses remain on the sea floor, with authorities having been unable to search them yet. The situation could be complicated by new storm warnings being issued for the area.


Prague prepares for the worst as waters rise -- At least 88 dead across Europe

August 13, 2002 Posted: 6:41 PM EDT (2241 GMT)

The swollen Vltava river in PraguePRAGUE, Czech Republic (CNN) -- Relief workers feverishly added sandbags to the protective walls on the banks of the Vltava River Tuesday as city officials ordered the evacuation of 50,000 people from a section of the capital threatened by rising water.

The flooding is the country's worst in 50 years, and Prague's worst in more than a century.

Torrential rains that also hit neighboring Germany and Austria and flooding in Russia have killed dozens of people, bringing the death toll from European storms to 88 in a week.

The number of deaths blamed on the floods in Prague and other parts of the Czech Republic during the past week has risen to eight.

Czech President Vaclav Havel cut short his vacation in Portugal and was reported to be returning to Prague to deal with the emergency. The Vltava River was expected to crest in the early hours of Wednesday morning, between 1 and 7 a.m. local time (7 p.m. Tuesday to 1 a.m. Wednesday EDT).

Restaurant roof next to 14th Century Charles BridgeEvacuation orders were issued for seven of the city's 10 districts, but authorities said many people were staying put. The Jewish quarter as well as other areas in the center of Prague are expected to flood later in the day. "The worst is still to come," ministry spokeswoman Gabrila Bartikova told The Associated Press.

Many of the Czech capital's famous medieval buildings have already been flooded and workers are fighting to save the 14th century Charles Bridge, one of the city's most popular landmarks. The Vltava has reached a level not seen since 1890, and water levels have risen ominously toward the tops of dams.

"The city is panicking and people are buying food like crazy. No one knows what to expect," Prague office worker Monika Vegh told CNN. "Seeing people carrying suitcases and hurrying to flee the center evokes memories of scenes not witnessed since World War II.

The Czech government Monday declared a state of emergency for Prague and central and southern Bohemia, as well as for the cities of Plzen and Ceske Budejovice and the spa town of Karlovy Vary. Many roads and bridges across the Western part of the country are closed. Homeowners and business people have joined emergency workers in desperately working to build walls of sandbags to protect properties. Soldiers and hundreds of volunteers have also been putting up defenses to protect Mala Strana, the city's picturesque medieval quarter.

Man on bike braves Czech floodwatersThe flooding is being called the worst of the century also in Austria, where thousands of people have been evacuated from the Salzburg and Upper Austria provinces. Johannes Guger, head of international relations for the Red Cross, told CNN that seven people have been killed in the floods. Firefighters were battling to shore up weakening dykes with sandbags, but the raging Danube forced its way through dams in the town of Ybbs in Lower Austria province. More than 1,000 buildings in Salzburg are under water, Austrian radio reported.

In Russia, at least 58 people have been killed after thousands of Russian holidaymakers were struck by flood waters that damaged homes and swept cars and tents out to sea. As many as 4,000 tourists remained trapped in Shirokaya Balka, a scenic coastal village that was devastated by the flooding, the Interfax news agency reported.

In Romania, flooding and gale force winds have killed at least seven people, including a 24-year-old woman and her baby.

A 71-year-old man drowned Monday night in Dresden, Germany, and German authorities said two other adults and a child were missing after being swept away by a cascade of mud and water.


Flooding kills at least 74 in Russia, Western Europe

August 12, 2002 Posted: 7:52 PM EDT (2352 GMT)

Austria says floods worst since records beganVIENNA, Austria (AP) -- Europe's flooding death toll swelled to at least 74 on Monday as torrential rains unleashed raging waters that swept away Russian tourists, triggered landslides in Germany and Switzerland and shut down shipping on the Danube River in Austria. Russia was by far the hardest-hit area, with at least 58 deaths. Giant cranes hoisted ruined cars and other debris out of the Black Sea on Monday, and cleanup crews scoured coastal beaches in search of more bodies.

Thousands of Russian tourists who had descended on the Black Sea Coast for their summer vacations were caught up in the surprise flooding. Many remain stranded, their cars swept out to sea by a wall of water that came rushing down from the mountains. As many as 4,000 tourists were still trapped in Shirokaya Balka, a scenic coastal village that was devastated by the flooding, the Interfax news agency reported. An investigative team was being formed to examine all the deaths for possible criminal charges, prosecutor Nikolai Buzko told the ITAR-Tass news agency. The team was also examining why some buildings had been erected in areas where development is prohibited because of erosion and flooding concerns.

Austria saw its first three casualties in more than a week of unprecedented flooding. Two were in hard-hit towns in Salzburg province, where a firefighter swept away by a churning river in Mariapfarr, and a man whose body was found floating in a flooded cellar in Hallein. The third was a 48-year-old man who drowned in the village of Kirchheim in Upper Austria province. "The scene is catastrophic," Wilfried Weissgaerber, the national fire brigade commander for the province of Lower Austria, told Austrian radio as he described collapsed houses and washed-out railway tracks.

Dresden under waterIn Germany, a police officer died after her car ran out of control and turned over late Sunday night on the way to Wismar on the Baltic Sea coast, and a 68-year-old woman died of exhaustion while trying to clear her flooded basement in Dresden. Near the city of Jena, another driver was killed in an accident that injured nine others, officials said. Authorities in Thuringia state issued a flood alert for the Pleisse River, which broke its banks. Firefighters stacked 30,000 sandbags to protect houses from the rising water, and hundreds of German soldiers were helping residents reinforce riverbanks in other critical areas. In the north, a train derailed near Hamburg after running into a mudslide caused by the rain. No one was injured, though the conductor and a passenger were treated for shock.

In the Czech Republic, thousands of people fled their homes Monday after numerous rivers overflowed their banks. In Radotin, a small town west of Prague, a 55-year-old man drowned in the swollen Vltava River, raising the death toll in that country to seven. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla declared a state of emergency in Prague and the regions of Bohemia, Plzen and Karlovy Vary. Authorities feared the Vltava could flood some areas of Prague, including the famous Kampa island, known for its architecture, and a zoo on the outskirts of the Czech capital. Some animals were moved to higher ground as a precaution. A Prague hospital in the flood zone evacuated about 100 patients Monday, and workers were moving books and important documents to higher floors in buildings that house the National Library and the Czech Senate.

In eastern Switzerland, torrential rains caused a series of small landslides, including one that cut off a rail line between Chur and Arosa. Another on the Griesalp mountain in central Switzerland swept away a bridge, stranding more than 150 people until an emergency span could be put in place.

Austrian authorities used helicopters to rescue stranded homeowners from rooftops in Linz, about 120 miles west of Vienna, and 4,000 soldiers joined sandbagging operations Monday in the waterlogged provinces of Lower Austria and Upper Austria. Water levels in the Danube River, which flows through Vienna, were being monitored anxiously. Austria's navigation authority halted all shipping on the Danube Monday as water levels neared 100-year highs, spokesman Reinhard Vorderwinkler said. In Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, the sightseeing boat Amadeus sank Monday after being swamped in the flood-swollen Salzach River. There were no injuries. Police in the scenic Danube town of Krems, meanwhile, said there were reports of evacuated homes being looted.


Floods continue to wreak havoc in Europe

August 11, 2002 Posted: 2:23 PM EDT (1823 GMT)

Flooding in NE HungarySHIROKAYA BALKA, Russia (CNN) -- Torrential rain continues to sweep across Europe causing havoc and the loss of dozens of lives. Property and crops have been destroyed, residents have been made homeless and tourists have been left stranded in usually sun-drenched tourist resorts. Rescue workers in the worst affected region, the Baltic coast of Russia, have retrieved 49 bodies so far, but the death toll is recorded at 58, mainly tourists. The overall death toll across Europe is 65. An Emergencies Ministry spokesman said the worst of the danger had passed and that weather conditions were now improving. "According to our forecasts, the main threat has passed," Interfax news agency quoted Deputy Emergencies Minister Yuri Vorobyev as telling President Vladimir Putin at a special meeting in the Kremlin. But heavy downpours continue across Europe from England to the Ukraine. Europe's worst flooding in decades has turned rivers and streets into torrents.

Even summer holiday destinations such as Spain and Italy have been hit by the torrential downpours and fierce winds, with harvests threatened with ruin. Venice is under threat of flooding after the sea level around the city rose by 90 centimetres (35 inches) above average. Other countries hit by the downpours have been the Czech Republic, Austria, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania and the Ukraine. A 31-year-old man was killed when he lost control of the Red Cross van he was driving and hit a tree in Lower Saxony after rain swept across southern Germany on Sunday. Also affected are the states of Bavaira and Baden-Wuerttemberg where states of emergency have been declared.

Flooding in RussiaMost of the bodies of the Russian dead were found in Shirokaya Balka in the area of Novorossiisk, on the Baltic coast. Floodwaters washed away homes and bridges inland as well as brought down telephone lines and submerged railway tracks. Seven villages were cut off in southern Russia and about 600 residents were left homeless after the second series of storms in two months. More than 100 people died in July. The area has received about a month's equivalent of rain in the past 24 hours. Putin ordered government departments on Saturday to do more to help the victims of the flooding. "Although it is summer, relaxation is out of the question," Putin said during a meeting in the Kremlin, Interfax news agency was quoted by The Associated Press as saying. "Help must be extended ... Epidemics must be prevented and people must be supported." Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has been dispatched to the area where he is receiving reports on the rescue and clean-up efforts, AP quoted Interfax news agency as saying.

Rainfall drowns records

Heavy rain and thunderstorms have swept across northern England leaving dozens homeless.

In the north of France more than double the normal rain fell in July.

Austria has seen the highest level of rainfall in a two-day period since records began more than 100 years ago, Otto Svabik of the Austrian Central Institute of Meteorology told Reuters. Villages along the Kamp River, a tributary of the Danube in the north of the country, were flooded. Rescuers worked to reach villagers stranded on rooftops.

In the Czech Republic four people are feared dead including a 21-year-old student who was killed when a falling tree crushed a cottage. Officials said on Friday a 51-year-old firefighter suffered a fatal heart attack during a rescue operation on Thursday in Tabor, 60 miles south of Prague. A motorist was feared drowned after his car was swept away by the Malse river and a 19-year-old woman was thought to have died after a raft overturned. About 2,000 people were evacuated from flooded homes in southern Bohemia. Two people, including a child and an elderly man, are thought to have died in Romania following rainstorms in the southern region of Gori, adding to the seven who died last week.

In Bulgaria a shepherd died in thunderstorms, while livestock have died and heavy storms have sparked landslides. The southeast of the country has been worst hit, with homes, roads, bridges and crops being damaged. Electricity and phone lines are down.

Holidaymakers in the Catalonia region of Spain and the Balearic Islands have faced a washout with more rain forecast, while Italian seaside resorts have also seen violent storms.

Farmers in the northeast are bracing themselves for more rains after the worst hailstorm in recent memory wrecked large swathes of crops. Ukraine's Emergencies Ministry said about 80 homes have been flooded after several days of heavy showers.



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