Danube dyke bursts, forcing many to flee

A thousand people fled on Monday and at least another 9 000 were on stand-by for evacuation in Romania after the swollen River Danube burst its banks.

A gap “about 100m long” opened up after emergency crews tried to plug the barrier about 4km from the town of Bistret in Dolj county, said a rescue official, General Vladimir Secara.

“The water has already reached the edges of the municipality and the national road,” said Bistret mayor Constantin Raicea.

Tents have been put up for flood victims and 1 000 people in total will have to be evacuated, although cattle have already been taken in safety, Raicea told Antena 3 television.

At least 9 000 another people living between Bistret and the town of Masesu de Jos are expected to be evacuated in the coming days, the head of Dolj’s emergency services, Colonel Liviu Raducan, was quoted as saying by Mediafax news agency.

Hundreds of police and soldiers had managed to strengthen the dyke after working on it for several days, thanks to a slight drop in water levels, rescue officials said. But on Sunday, 300 people were evacuated as a precaution and about 130 farms were threatened by the floods after another dyke burst in Oltina in south-eastern Romania.

Waters from the Danube were flowing mainly into a nearby lake but also threatened neighbouring homes.

About 80 families in Oltina “packed their bags but preferred to stay home Sunday” to celebrate the Orthodox Easter holiday and attend Mass in the village church, said a journalist from Realitatea TV who was at the scene.

In total, 13 dykes in Romania have broken or been damaged along the Danube and its tributaries and authorities have carried out controlled flooding over 21 000ha to reduce pressure on flood defences in resident areas, authorities said.

According to an assessment on Sunday, 13 counties bordering the Danube have been hit by floods in Romania and more than 5 500 people have been evacuated.

As well as the worst-hit country, Romania, flood waters caused by melting snows and rainfall this month have waterlogged homes, farmland and transport links in Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria.

In Hungary on Monday, another “serious crack” was discovered in a dyke of the River Koros, close to three towns authorities had already been forced to evacuate.

“We are continuing to fortify the dyke at Tiszasas, Csepa and Szeleveny but 200m away, there is another serious crack,” said the national authority in charge of organising the flood defence.

“The coordination authority is on top of the situation, but the risk is still great,” it said, adding there are about 6 000 people working on mounting flood defences in the area, including 1 600 soldiers.

The Danube River no longer poses a danger of flooding in Hungary, but several other rivers, including the Tisza and its tributaries, are forcing authorities to maintain their highest level of alert.

In Serbia, authorities said the flood water in the worst-hit northern Vojvodina province has stabilised, but warned the danger remains.

On the Tisza, which flows from Hungary into the Danube north of Belgrade, the water has dropped slightly since Sunday but is expected to remain a threat for two more weeks.

The Tisza is still at its highest level since 1970 at the town of Novi Knezevac, just south of the border with Hungary.

Meanwhile, in Bulgaria, the Danube’s level is stagnant in the northern city of Nikopol, but lower in the towns of Lom, Ruse and Vidin, according to officials.

In the town of Ganserndorf on the Austrian-Slovak border, a Sunday-evening benefit concert raised $93 000 for flood victims in the area, where damage from the disaster was estimated at $28,5-million.—AFP

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