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Thursday, 15 August, 2002, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
Battle to save Dresden's treasures
Dresden's Zwinger Palace, foreground, Semperoper, left, and cathedral, right
Artworks were rescued but costumes may be lost
Workers in Germany's Baroque city of Dresden - the Florence of the North - battled to protect its palaces and save priceless works of art as the floodwaters rose steadily.

The flood level of the Elbe river was expected to reach 8.5 metres (27 feet) on Thursday, the highest since 31 March, 1845.

Workers erect sandbags in Dresden
Workers prepare for the highest flood level since 1845
Hundreds of works of art in the Zwinger Palace, which houses one of Europe's great art collections including Raphael's Sistine Madonna, had to be moved to higher floors.

Water flooded both its vaults and those of the famous Semperoper opera house nearby.

Most of Dresden's ornate buildings were devastated by Allied bombing in 1945, with restoration of many only being completed in the past decade following reunification.

In another eastern city, Dessau, museum workers raced to bring the renowned modernist Bauhaus collection to higher ground as sandbags were laid to protect the centre that houses the collection, a Unesco world cultural heritage site.

'Worst natural disaster'

Many of the Saxony state capital's ornate squares were under water and about 3,000 residents have been evacuated.

The city's Royal Palace, home of Saxony kings, was also hit by floodwater while sandbags encircled the Baroque-period Frauenkirche, restored from rubble and unveiled just a few days ago.

Workers at Dresden's Semperoper pumped river water out of the basement, where it had damaged stage equipment and costumes.

Rebuilt Dresden is now one of Germany's top cultural attractions and tourist spots with many of the landmarks near the banks of the Elbe.

The main train station has now been closed for days, with water lapping the top of the windows of abandoned trains.

Saxony prime minister, Georg Mildbradt, said the flooding was the worst natural disaster the region had suffered.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Paul Anderson
"Germany's leaders are expecting things to get much worse"
Christine Schoger of the Mayors' Office in Dresden
"People and institutions took a lot of measures to protect the buildings"

European havoc

Germany ravaged

Prague drama

Freak phenomenon?

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TALKING POINT
See also:

15 Aug 02 | Europe
13 Aug 02 | Entertainment
10 Aug 02 | Europe
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