Flood misery as German rivers surge
Dresden is racing against time as waters rise
BBCNews.com, Aug. 15, 2002
Big evacuations are under way in eastern Germany as water levels reach their highest levels in a century.
Tens of thousands of people have had to leave their homes, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder says four million Germans have been affected by flooding.
A second wave of water from the Czech Republic is expected to hit. Further evacuations are going to be needed.
In the historic city of Dresden, men, women and children piled sandbags on Thursday, in an effort to protect the city centre.
Floodwaters in central Europe have already killed about 100 people from Russia to the Baltic, destroying billions of dollars worth of property, infrastructure and crops.
In the Czech capital Prague, as well as Bavaria and Austria, the situation has eased as water levels have started to drop.
The swollen River Elbe is surging towards Dresden, where the water level is rising at around 20 centimetres per hour and is already at its highest level in 100 years.
The floods are expected to peak in the city on Friday morning.
Officials say 3,000 of the city's 480,000 residents have been evacuated. Hundreds of hospital patients have been moved to other parts of Saxony.
The city's waterlogged station has been closed for days. Many of the city's landmarks are under renewed threat.
Workers have been pumping water from the Zwinger Palace art gallery, where precious paintings, including Rembrandts, have been moved to upper floors.
"A second wave of water from the Czech Republic is expected to hit," German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said. "Further evacuations are going to be needed."
Mr Schroeder said more than four-million people had been affected by the floods, which he called a national catastrophe.
In the city of Pirna, 20 kilometres (12 miles) south-east of Dresden, emergency services have begun evacuating 30,000 residents.
The authorities are building a tent city to accommodate them and military helicopters delivered bread to cut-off residents.
About 30,000 people have already been evacuated across Saxony. Nine flood victims have died in the state alone.
Further north, another 35,000 people are on standby to abandon their homes in the cities of Bitterfeld and Magdeburg, in the neighbouring state of Saxony-Anhalt.
A big chemical complex in Bitterfeld came under threat on Thursday, after a river broke a levee - but officials say the plants are not at risk.
In Magdeburg, 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.
Meanwhile, waters have been receding in the Czech republic.
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.