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Tuesday, 13 August, 2002, 23:37 GMT 00:37 UK
Battered Prague hopes for respite
Prague residents watching River Vltava
The tourists have seen little but water
Devastating flood waters in the Czech capital Prague have continued to climb - but officials believe the worst may now be over.

Water levels from the Vltava River were expected to rise slightly overnight, yet fears that the famous Old Town could be inundated by morning have started to subside.

Some 40,000 residents of Prague will nonetheless spend the night away from home, having finally caved in to the authorities order to evacuate.

Thousands have also been forced from their homes in neighbouring Austria and Germany, where more than a dozen people have died in the extreme weather conditions in the past few days.

The bad weather is now expected to move eastward once more. Forecasters say more severe weather could hit the coast of Russia, where flash floods left nearly 60 people dead last week.

Prague's treasures

The floods have been described as the worst in more than a century in Prague, where a string of historic palaces and villas have been flooded. Parts of the medieval Mala Strana district have been totally submerged.

During the day volunteers rallied around landmarks, scrambling to fill hundreds of sandbags in a desperate bid to save the city's treasures.

Amid concerns that many people could be stranded without water and electricity, Prague's Mayor Igor Nemec had ordered 40,000 inhabitants to leave their homes.

Many were reluctant to leave, but Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla authorised rescue teams to use reasonable force to remove those refusing to abandon their homes.

The floods have already inundated southern parts of the Czech Republic. At least nine people have died, road and rail lines have been cut, and towns and cities swamped.

Animals in Prague zoo have also fallen victim to the floods.

Zoo director Petr Fejk told the Czech news agency CTK that they had been forced to kill an elephant and a hippotamus which could not be rescued from the rising waters.

Vienna threatened

The severe weather is threatening much of Europe.

In Austria seven people are known to have died in floods.

The River Danube - already swollen to record levels - burst its banks in the capital Vienna on Tuesday.

However, the situation eased in the city of Salzburg, which has already been declared a disaster zone.

Some of the bridges re-opened to traffic on Tuesday after the city was virtually cut in half a day earlier with 1,000 buildings partially or totally submerged.

In the province of Lower Austria, west of Vienna, the historic town of Ybbs An Der Donau has been engulfed, and several other small towns are threatened.

In Germany parts of Dresden and Munich were evacuated. A state of emergency has been declared in seven districts of Bavaria.

Among the dead was a 68-year-old woman who died while trying to clear her flooded basement in Dresden.

Further south in Romania, three people have been confirmed dead - including a mother and her baby killed when their house collapsed.

The Black Sea area of Russia has been particularly hard hit, with at least 58 deaths over the course of the weekend.

The BBC's Rob Broomby
"The jewel of central Europe is becoming a ghost town"
The BBC's Nick Thorpe in Lintz
"The water is still climbing"

European havoc

Germany ravaged

Prague drama

Freak phenomenon?


See also:

13 Aug 02 | Business
13 Aug 02 | Entertainment
12 Aug 02 | Europe
10 Aug 02 | Europe
11 Aug 02 | In Depth
09 Aug 02 | Europe
09 Aug 02 | Europe
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