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Monday, 19 August, 2002, 19:20 GMT 20:20 UK
Germany braces for more floods
People inspect a dam at the Goitzsche lake near Bitterfeld, in Germany
Dams have been unable to withstand the deadly tide
Thousands more people have been evacuated across central Germany as the swollen River Elbe continues to send flood waters through many towns and villages.

On Monday, the waters claimed more victims, bringing the death toll to at least 18. Dozens of people are still reported missing.

The authorities are preparing for more destruction, as the floods - which have already devastated Prague and Dresden - head towards the North Sea.

Enlarge image
Enlarge image

In Magdeburg, local authorities have been evacuating people as a surge of water is expected within the next 24 hours.

Even the coastal city of Hamburg is bracing itself for floods.

Four million Germans have already been affected, forcing well over 100,000 to flee their homes.

The German Government decided on Monday to delay for a year planned tax cuts to finance the cost of clean-up operations.

Spokesman Joerg Mueller said the decision would allow about 7.5 billion euros ($7.3bn) to be released.

European Commission President Romano Prodi has already promised EU aid for the four countries - Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia - worst affected by the disaster.

Desperate efforts

In the Saxony-Anhalt region of Germany, seven dykes burst around the town of Wittenberg alone, sending waters pouring into several villages.

Bus stop in Budapest
Budapest was spared the horrors of other cities

In the town itself - once home to Martin Luther - helicopters threw sandbags to shore up the threatened south bank of the Elbe.

"Vast amounts of water are flooding into the city," said a spokesman for the rescue workers in Wittenberg.

At the nearby town of Prettin, a 200-metre stretch of dam was reported to have crumbled.

Upstream, the city of Magdeburg - home to more than 200,000 people - is in particular danger because it lies on flat land and the river here splits in two.

But the authorities say they are ready for the deluge, thanks to a 15 kilometre-long sandbag dyke built by volunteers over the past two days.

In Dresden, river levels are now receding and revealing the extent of the damage to the city and its recently renovated architectural jewels.

But Dresden authorities have warned many of the 30,000 people evacuated at the height of the floods not to return home yet.

There are fears that the continued high levels of ground water have destabilised the foundations of many buildings.

Devastation

The devastating floods have swept across several European countries from Germany to Russia's Black Sea coast, leaving about 100 people dead.

Voluntary workers throw out tourist guides in front of the synagogue in Prague's Old Town
Serious health risks remain in Prague

Damage is already estimated at billions of euros, with the total expected to rise as the Elbe and Danube wreak more havoc on their paths downstream:

  • In Hungary, Budapest escaped relatively unscathed from a surge in the Danube which passed through the city in the early hours of Monday;

  • In the Czech Republic, waters have receded in Prague, but authorities have warned people not to return home, because of serious health risks and danger of collapsing buildings;

  • In Romania, at least one person has been killed by floods and hundreds of homes have been damaged in the north-eastern county of Suceava.

  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Sangita Mysta
    "Some people have become trapped in their homes"
    The BBC's Paul Anderson
    "There is no end in sight for Germany's worst natural disaster"

    European havoc

    Germany ravaged

    Prague drama

    Freak phenomenon?

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    TALKING POINT
    See also:

    19 Aug 02 | Europe
    19 Aug 02 | Business
    18 Aug 02 | Europe
    17 Aug 02 | Europe
    15 Aug 02 | Europe
    13 Aug 02 | Entertainment
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