The Heat Is Online

Floods Paralyze Romania, Eastern Hungary

Floods rise in Eastern Europe
Donna Pistilli Sauer,, April 11, 2000

Disastrous flooding continues to grip Romania and Hungary, where rushing rivers have already claimed several lives and threatened hundreds of others.

At least nine people have died in Romania and one in Hungary from high water, which has covered the areas around many major rivers since last week.

As many as 1,100 soldiers have rescued 600 people from regions threatened by the rising water in the past seven days, according to Romania's National Defense Ministry. Scores of others have been taken from their flooded homes by boat in neighboring eastern Hungary.

Heavy rain and melting snow over the past week are blamed for the sharp rises in water levels along the Tisza River and its tributaries in eastern Hungary. The highest grade of flood alert is already in force along portions of the river.

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban declared a state of emergency in eastern Hungary Saturday in response to the flood threat. Thousands of soldiers continued work over the weekend to strengthen dams to hold back the rising waters.

Romania's southern river ports of Calafat, about 155 miles southwest of Bucharest, and Bechet, 124 miles to the southwest are most at risk from the rising waters this week, government officials said.

The recent flooding in Romania follows dangerous floods that struck the northern portions of the country in January. Heavy rains caused two dams to overflow, discharging polluted waters containing cyanide and heavy metals into several European rivers.

Reuters Limited contributed to this report.

Hungary floods recede but more expected

Reuters News Service, April 10, 2000

BUDAPEST - Water levels fell in eastern Hungary on Sunday after the worst floods in years, but work continued at full speed to strengthen dams amid warnings of fresh flooding, government officials said.

An emergency flood alert is in force along the Tisza river and its tributaries after heavy rains and melting snow. Traffic routes have been closed by water and more than 100 people have been evacuated.

But Transport, Telecommunications and Water Minister Kalman Katona said there would be no need for more large-scale evacuations after flood-water was diverted into an emergency reserve to reduce the danger. Little rain is expected for the next week but meteorologists have warned of possible floods later in the month.

"We have enough time until the crest expected for between April 20 and carry out the needed protection work," Katona told reporters.

Dams raised during last year's record floods are now being built up still further in the expectation that water levels will reach new highs in coming weeks.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban declared an emergency alert in flood-stricken areas of eastern Hungary on Saturday.

Officials said 16,600 people would be needed for flood prevention work, which would cost about 10.5 billion forints ($38.75 million). Ministry officials said Romania had asked for help from Hungary after a dam on the Feher Koros river broke on the Romanian side of the joint border.

Water was flooding through a breach 200 meters (yards) wide and Hungarian officials had travelled to the area to assess the damage and see what aid could be given to Romania, the officials said.

The Tisza was one of several rivers polluted by spills of cyanide and heavy metals from Romania over the past month.

Katona said the floods would flush out some of the pollution that remained in the rivers, but would not threaten people living downstream since the concentration of toxic material was low.

Story by Sandor Peto