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Thursday, 22 August, 2002, 19:16 GMT 20:16 UK
Germany struggles to contain rivers
Woman pushes bike along flooded road
Many flooded areas are still uninhabitable
The battle to shore up dams along the swollen River Elbe and its tributaries is continuing in Germany despite flood waters receding in some southern parts of the country.

map of the region
Thousands of relief workers, including some sent by foreign governments, are taking part in the sandbagging effort in central and northern Germany.

The high water is now approaching the mouth of the Elbe in Hamburg, but officials say sodden dykes could still burst upstream, where waters are still higher than normal and moving fast.

The floods have undone years of reconstruction and renovation in eastern Germany, and politicians clashed on Thursday over how to fund a recovery programme.

Poll gap narrowed

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, bidding for re-election in September, has said proposed tax cuts will be delayed for a year - a measure that should raise some seven billion euros.

Royal Scots Dragoon Guards on the River Elbe in Luchow-Dannanberg area
British troops have joined in the effort
But his conservative challenger, Edmund Stoiber, told a press conference he would reverse the measure if he won the election.

He said the conservatives would not block Mr Schroeder's plan in parliament, because they did not want a row, but he described it as the "wrong course".

Mr Stoiber's lead in the polls has narrowed since the devastating floods hit the country 10 days ago - one polling agency suggested on Thursday that Mr Schroeder could have narrowed the gap from 5% to 1%.

Hospital evacuation

The number of dead across Europe in the last two weeks of flooding is now at least 112. In Germany at least 18 have died, and 25 are missing.

Bitterfeld can breathe again

Bitterfeld crisis centre
Thousands of people in the north-east of the country were ordered from their homes on Wednesday, and hundreds were evacuated from a hospital near Dannenberg on Thursday.

Many of those forced to leave their homes earlier in the week - including 40,000 from the town of Wittenberg alone - are still waiting to go back.

In Bitterfeld, on the River Mulde, confidence grew that the risk of contamination from a chemical plant had been avoided.

More rain coming

"Bitterfeld can breathe again," said a spokesman for the city's crisis centre.

German troops at Lauenberg
German troops take a break at Lauenberg
In Saxony, whose baroque capital Dresden was among the worst affected cities, water levels sank to half the record they struck last Friday.

But downstream in the states of Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg, and Lower Saxony, officials said there was a risk that weakened dykes could still give way despite the receding waters.

Overnight, in Saxony-Anhalt, pumps were used to prevent the closure of the Munich-Berlin autobahn.

More rain is forecast.

European havoc

Germany ravaged

Prague drama

Freak phenomenon?


See also:

20 Aug 02 | Europe
18 Aug 02 | Europe
17 Aug 02 | Europe
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