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Friday, 16 August, 2002, 05:08 GMT 06:08 UK
Flood misery as German rivers surge
Dresden
Dresden is racing against time as waters rise
Big evacuations are under way in south eastern Germany, as record-high floods surge northwards after causing havoc in the Czech Republic.

Tens of thousands of people have had to leave their homes, in what German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has called a national catastrophe.


A second wave of water from the Czech Republic is expected to hit. Further evacuations are going to be needed.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder

Worst hit is the area round Dresden where the river Elbe has broken all previous flood records and is set to rise further on Friday.

Floodwaters in central Europe have killed about 100 people from Russia to the Baltic, destroying billions of dollars worth of property, infrastructure and crops.

In the Czech capital Prague, as well as Bavaria and Austria, the situation has eased as water levels have started to drop.

Moving artwork

The river Elbe swollen by overnight rain is surging towards Dresden, where the water level is rising at around 20 centimetres per hour.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
Schroeder calls the floods a national catastrophe

The Elbe is expected to reach a height of 9 meters on Friday - the highest level ever recorded in the city.

Many of the city's landmarks are under threat.

Workers have been pumping water from the Zwinger Palace art gallery, where precious paintings, including Rembrandts, have been moved to upper floors.

Thousands of Dresden residents are being evacuated. Hundreds of hospital patients have been moved to other parts of Saxony.

"A second wave of water from the Czech Republic is expected to hit," German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said. "Further evacuations are going to be needed."

Mr Schroeder said more than four-million people had been affected by the floods, which he called a national catastrophe.

Shelter

In the city of Pirna, 20 kilometres (12 miles) south-east of Dresden, emergency services have begun evacuating 30,000 residents.

Zwinger Palace pumps
Workers are pumping water from Dresden's Zwinger Palace

The authorities are building a tent city to accommodate them and military helicopters delivered bread to cut-off residents.

Further north, another 35,000 people are on standby to abandon their homes in the cities of Bitterfeld and Magdeburg, in the neighbouring state of Saxony-Anhalt.

A big chemical complex in Bitterfeld came under threat on Thursday, after a river broke a levee - but officials say the plants are not at risk.

In Magdeburg, residents in three districts have been told they must leave their homes by Saturday and seek refuge elsewhere.

Schools in the city are being transformed into temporary shelters.

Clean-up

Meanwhile, waters have been receding in the Czech republic.

Destroyed house in Weesenstein
German towns are devastated as waters surge northwards

Prague's Old Town has been spared but the Czech capital faces a clean-up bill of hundreds of millions of dollars.

In one badly-flooded area of the city, a building collapsed and police are warning people that it is dangerous to come back.

The BBC's Prague correspondent, Ray Furlong, says there could be further collapses as the houses there were not built to withstand so much water.

Meanwhile, in the Slovak capital, Bratislava, the river Danube is still rising and expected to peak in the coming hours.

Emergency services say they don't expect the water to rise too high for them to cope, and the kind of floods that Czechs and Germans have suffered are not anticipated.

The river has already wrought havoc in Austria and southern Bavaria, where some cleaning-up efforts have already begun as the waters recede.


 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Paul Anderson
"Germany's leaders are expecting things to get much worse over the coming days"
Worldwide Fund for Nature's David Tickner
"The countries have to combine efforts to manage their waterways across boundaries "

European havoc

Germany ravaged

Prague drama

Freak phenomenon?

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TALKING POINT
See also:

15 Aug 02 | Europe
15 Aug 02 | Europe
14 Aug 02 | Europe
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10 Aug 02 | Europe
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