Rising rivers flood German, Czech, Austrian towns

Rivers swollen by recent rain and melting snow flooded towns in the Czech Republic and Germany, and forced evacuations of thousands people from their homes on Saturday.

In Germany, the flooded Elbe River breached a dam in Dresden and about 300 people have been evacuated, city spokesperson Sven Kindler said. The Elbe spilled over its banks in three different points in Dresden.

“I’m not leaving, I’m staying right here,” said Werner Mehnert (63), a Dresden resident who lives on the banks of the Elbe.

He had already cleared out the basement of his house and was prepared to install pumps to keep it free of water, he said. During the severe flooding of 2002, he lost everything and fears leaving behind what he has rebuilt in the meantime.

South of Dresden, soldiers were deployed in six cities along the flooded Elbe. Among those affected was Miessen, where a dozen people had to be evacuated from a retirement home.

Eight cities in Germany were affected by floods, with 1 300 people forced to leave their homes.

According to the weather authority for the state of Saxony, the Elbe water levels rose to 7,3m on Saturday and was expected to peak in the next 48 hours.

In Austria, water levels receded slightly on Saturday on the Danube and its major tributaries in the province of Lower Austria, and authorities expected to lower Austria’s flood warning levels by Saturday evening.

Earlier in the week, the Danube spilled over its banks in Upper Austria, prompting authorities to close some roads.

Anti-flood barriers were raised throughout the Czech capital, Prague, where the Vltava River levels receded overnight but was rising again on Saturday, City Hall said. Authorities were assessing the situation late on Saturday and would decide whether to take further preventive measures, such as evacuating residents and closing some subway stations, 17 of which were inundated during the 2002 floods.

City Hall spokesperson Jiri Wolf said at least 100 people would have to evacuate Prague’s Zbraslav neighbourhood, on the southern outskirts.

In the north-west Czech town of Hrensko on the German border, the Elbe flooded most houses, forcing residents to leave for higher ground, Jaroslava Antonova, a town hall official, said on Saturday.

In the nearby Usti nad Labem, where the Elbe flooded houses along the embankment and hundreds were evacuated, authorities planned to close two key bridges. The river was expected to peak there later on Saturday or Sunday, spokesperson Milan Knotek said.

The rising Elbe was also threatening Decin, a town between Hrensko and Usti where about 100 people were preparing to evacuate, local police chief officer Marcel Horak said.

Overnight, the rising Morava River in Olomouc 250km east of Prague prompted the evacuation of 60 people, spokesperson for the city Martin Hala said. He said the river still could rise due to melting snow in the nearby Jeseniky mountains.

Czech radio reported up to 2 000 people would likely have to be evacuated in Olomouc.

In the southern town of Veseli nad Luznici, 100km south of Prague, the Luznice River flooded about 250 houses and soldiers were deployed to evacuate hundreds of people, the radio said.

In the south-eastern town of Znojmo near the border with Austria where 2 000 people had to leave their homes earlier this week, the Dyje River continued to rise overnight, the city’s spokesperson Anna Maixnerova said on Saturday. An additional 8 000 were evacuated in 14 nearby villages.

The raging Dyje also flooded fields down the stream, creating a 500ha lake that was threatening the homes of about a hundred people in the village of Jevisovka and the town of Hrusovany nad Jevisovkou. — Sapa-AP

Frank Ellmers in Dresden, Germany, contributed to this report

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