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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 August 2005, 19:25 GMT 20:25 UK
Tourists caught up in flood areas
Tourists in Austria's stunning Vorarlberg region are unlikely to have envisaged a holiday helping to clear mud and stagnating flood water from saturated houses.

Soliders build flood walls with sandbags
Soldiers have been sent to Bavaria to assist

But with all the roads closed out of the town of Lech and nearby Zuers after heavy flooding, there is little else to do.

"Everyone's helping out right now," Elizabeth Dorner of the Lech tourist board told the BBC News website.

"The waters have gone down, but there's a huge amount of clearing up to do. It's a real mess. All the cellars are still completely flooded. Guest, residents, everyone's pitching in."

However, holiday-makers were largely unaffected, regardless of the road, train line and telephone disruption, said Austrian Tourist Board spokeswoman Karen Bazaz.

UK holiday firm Inghams said a helicopter had been used on Wednesday morning to airlift 34 of its returning guests from two places - Wengen and Grindelwald - but that the roads had now been opened and coaches could get through to resorts.

In Switzerland, there are 1,000 holiday-makers holed up in Engelberg, in the Obwalden canton, with provisions being flown in by helicopter. The authorities are considering building a makeshift road.

Many of the tourists will, at least, ultimately return to dry houses. But many homes across Germany, Switzerland and Austria, have been devastated by the flooding. Some residents are still waiting to be evacuated, others to return.

In the Swiss capital, Bern, police are already starting to evacuate people stranded in their houses and on their roofs by helicopter as the current is too strong for water rescue.

Not again

Comparisons are being drawn in Germany with the dramatic flooding of 1999.

You actually can't do anything about it, you can only watch the water coming
Erich Steer
Beergarden owner
"At the time we were all calling it the flood of the century - we thought it would be all least 50 years before we'd see something like this again," said one resident of the Bavarian town of Bad Toelz, under water once again.

"You actually can't do anything about it, you can only watch the water coming. You are powerless. Nobody knows whether it still will go up, or if this is the end and it will drain," said Erich Steer, owner of a flooded beer garden in the similarly hit Neu-Ulm.

Some 850 soldiers have been sent to Bavaria to help deal with the flooding.

And Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who faces voters at the polls next month, is also on his way.

The speed at which he donned his wellington boots and visited the areas affected by flooding in 2002 is widely seen to have helped him secure re-election against the odds that year.

See the devastation caused by the floods

Floods leave 16 dead in Romania
22 Aug 05 |  Europe
In pictures: Romania floods
22 Aug 05 |  In Pictures
Country profile: Switzerland
07 Jun 05 |  Country profiles


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