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Saturday, 17 August, 2002, 23:49 GMT 00:49 UK
Budapest readies for rising water
Budapest's rising flood waters, with Buda Castle in the background
Authorities believe central Budapest will be spared

As the rivers begin to fall elsewhere in central Europe, the Danube is still rising in the Hungarian capital, Budapest.

People are working round the clock to defend the city from the encroaching floods.

On Saturday night, by torch and moonlight, some 800 people, half of them volunteers, were reinforcing the sandbag defences in the north of the city, at their most vulnerable point.

People use a rowboat after the Danube flooded its banks in Budapest
The Danube is supposed to peak on Monday

As we watched, the waters on the other side of the barricade began to pour over the first layers of sand.

Elsewhere in the city, I have seen water bubbling up through the drains, and lapping against the walls of the parliament.

Mixed atmosphere

There is a strange mixture of calm and emergency.

There are the blue flashing lights of police and fire engines and the frantic work of building up the defences in some districts.

But in the centre of the town tourists paddle in the flood waters and enjoy the excitement of being in a city under siege.

The authorities say they are confident that downtown Budapest will not be flooded, even though the previous record water level has already been passed.

The Danube is still rising, but slowly - only two or three centimetres per hour.

It is expected to reach its peak early on Monday morning.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Thorpe in Budapest
"One word sums up the effect of the floods on this region: mud"

European havoc

Germany ravaged

Prague drama

Freak phenomenon?

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TALKING POINT
See also:

17 Aug 02 | Europe
16 Aug 02 | Europe
15 Aug 02 | Europe
16 Aug 02 | Europe
13 Aug 02 | Entertainment
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