Northern European countries inundated by record rains
Thousands evacuated as deadly floods swamp Europe
NBCnews.com, June 3, 2013
Floodwaters from heavy rains swamped five countries in Europe and threatened others, leaving at least six people dead and five missing.
Germany, Austria, Poland, Switzerland and the Czech Republic have been affected, with officials in the Czech capital, Prague, closing the subway system, evacuating thousands of homes and warning other people not to come into the city. Slovakia and Hungary were preparing flood defenses on the Danube River.
In Germany, rain levels that reached record highs in May contributed to widespread flooding across southern and eastern parts of the country.
In the southern state of Bavaria, more than 20,000 firefighters and other rescue workers were battling rising water levels, especially in the southeast. The historic cities of Passau, which is surrounded by three rivers, and Rosenheim declared states of emergency.
More than 600 soldiers from the German military had been deployed in Bavaria alone to help with rescue and protection measures.
"We can already speak of the worst flooding in the past 20 to 30 years," Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said after meeting with a crisis management team.
This weekend saw many southern German towns struck particularly hard. "In the past three days, more than 400 liters of rain per square meter [about 10 gallons per square foot] were measured in many regions that border the Alps," meteorologist Klaus Lessmann from German public broadcaster ZDF said.
The German Weather Service, DWD, reported Monday that Germany had not seen such extreme soil moisture in the past 50 years.
"Many fields are completely saturated and cannot hold more water," Johanna Anger from the DWD said.
Many residents in affected towns and villages were without power overnight and as a precautionary measure, many schools were kept closed on Monday.
Rescue workers and volunteers were filling sandbags, erecting temporary water barriers and helping to evacuate homes Monday morning, according to Passau's crisis management team.
In the eastern German state of Thuringia, more than 7,000 people had to spend the night in temporary shelters.
Czech officials declared a state of emergency and closed the subway system in Prague for the first time since devastating floods struck in 2002. People were urged not to travel to the capital, as waters of the Vltava River reached critical levels and threatened the city's ancient center. Police said at least five were dead.
"We have problems in the whole area of the Czech Republic, especially Bohemia," an Interior Ministry spokesman said. "We are hoping that it will not be as bad as it was in 2002."
In Austria, a cleanup worker was killed in a mudslide near Salzburg. Three more were reportedly missing.
Train lines in many parts of northwest Austria were suspended Sunday due to landslides. In just two days, Austria had experienced as much rain as it normally would in two months, the Austrian meteorological center said.
Evacuations were also taking place in Poland and Switzerland.
"Rain, Rain, Go Away: Germany Drowns in Endless Downpour," Germany's Der Spiegel magazine headlined on its website.
"There is hope on the horizon," Anger said. "There is still some rain today, but the weather forecast is better for the coming days."
Despite less rain and better weather forecasts, officials were still on high alert.
"The situation is still dramatic. Especially along the Danube, we cannot speak of an easing of flood situation at all," Herrmann said.