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 Saturday, 4 January, 2003, 17:19 GMT
Europe battles severe weather
Fireman tows dinghy filled with sandbags in Belgium
Belgium is beginning a massive clean-up operation
Several European countries are continuing to struggle against severe winter weather, with heavy rain, high winds and bitterly cold conditions causing death and disruption.

Emergency workers sandbagging a river dike in Germany
Germany's rivers appear to be slowly receding
Rivers have burst their banks in Belgium, France, Germany, Portugal and the UK, and there are warnings that further rain could flood thousands of homes.

In Poland, 183 people have died of hypothermia, many of them reportedly homeless people who were sleeping outdoors.

In Moscow, the number of people who have died because of hypothermia so far this winter has reached 223.

  • Germany appears to be enjoying a slight respite from the weather, with rivers swollen by rainstorms appearing to recede on Saturday, easing pressure on major cities such as Bonn and Cologne, the Associated Press news agency reported.

    However a number of towns and villages in the west, south and east of the country are under up to half a metre of water, and river traffic has been suspended on parts of the countries main rivers, including the Rhine and the Danube.

    Children play on sandbags in Sint-Denijs Westrem, Belgium
    Rain continues in Sint-Denijs Westrem, Belgium

    Winds gusting at up to 200km/h (125mph) toppled a tree on to a car near Calw in southern Germany, killing a 13-year-old boy, and critically injuring his father. Another man died after his car overturned on an icy road near Hamburg.

    About 1,000 people were evacuated from the town of Soemmerda, about 120 miles (200 kilometres) southwest of Berlin on Saturday after fears that river dikes along the Lossa River would give way.

  • In Portugal, 300 kilometres (200 miles) of the railway linking Lisbon and Oporto is under water. Two bridges are reported to have been swept away in central Portugal. Firefighters evacuated residents from riverfront areas of the town of Agueda after floodwaters rose to a level of 1.5 metres (five feet).

    A landslide destroyed a stretch of highway near Armamar in the north of the country and three cars were reportedly swept into the river Douro.

  • In Belgium a massive clean-up operation has begun following several days of rain which caused rivers to burst their banks, flooding hundreds of homes and cutting off a dozen villages near the River Meuse.

    Rivers in several provinces were reported to have receded. However two women are missing - one who was riding a bicycle near a river and another who fell into a river during a violent rainstorm last Sunday.

    Horses are stranded as Poland's Warta river overflows
    Horses were stranded by Poland's rising Warta river

  • In the UK, high water that flooded dozens of homes and closed roads in the south of the country are receding. Thousands of homeowners came within inches of disaster.

  • There is flooding in France in Lower Normandy and Picardy in the north of the country.

    In Alsace, in the north-east, emergency services were called out 800 times on Thursday to deal with damage from high winds. One man was severely injured in the east of the country when a tree fell on his car.

    A heavy snowstorm hit northern France, with almost 300,000 people have been left without electricity and most flights from Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris cancelled due to strong winds and heavy storms.

    At least one major motorway in Paris was closed, leading to tailbacks of up to 75 miles in total around the city.

  • Emergency workers evacuated about 200 people from the small villalge of Vestec, 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of Prague, as rain and wind toppled trees and caused mudslides in the Czech Republic.

    Some 20 railway lines in several regions of the country have been closed, and the Vltava river, which flooded seriously in the summer, is again very swollen. People were also put on alert along the Mze river, 75 miles (120 km) southwest of Prague. Parts of the river's embankment in Prague are also closed.

  • In Romania, rivers swelled by melted snow have flooded several villages in the north-east of the country, killing at least one person.

    Two other people went missing in the same incident on Wednesday when waters swept through a mountain cabin where they were celebrating the New Year near Poiana Teiului, some 350km (220 miles) north of Bucharest. Hundreds of homes were also reportedly destroyed.

      The BBC's Gillian Ni Cheallaigh
    "They're frantically trying to hold back the rising rivers"
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    01 Jan 03 | UK
    24 Dec 02 | Europe
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