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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 August 2005, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Flood risk across Europe subsides
A woman surveys a devastated camping ground in the Bern region
The cost of the flood in Switzerland alone could be 640m euros
People have began returning home as water levels from heavy flooding in central and eastern Europe, which claimed about 43 lives, begin to drop.

In the Swiss capital, Bern, and the nearby Oberland region, more than 1,000 residents were allowed back, although water and electricity were still cut.

Vital roads and train routes linking the north of Switzerland to the south were also reopened.

Communities across the region face a massive clean-up operation.

"The flood risk has receded, but there is an awful lot of clearing up to do," said Bern police spokesman Franz Maerki.

Insurers say the economic cost of the flood in Switzerland alone could be 1bn Swiss Francs (640m euros; 440m; $800m).

Authorities in the alpine village of Brienz said they were concerned about more rainfall forecast for Saturday night.

"There is a risk that once we see new rainfalls, the mountains will push more earth and rock masses down the valley which could destroy our newly erected barriers," said Peter Flueck, local authority head.

The swollen River Danube in southern Germany

In other parts of Switzerland, the situation appeared to be improving with water levels of the central lakes of Thun and Sarnen receding.

But several areas in the region of Obwalden remained under water and local police have asked people to refrain from entering flooded areas as "catastrophe tourists", reports news agency AP.

In Romania, one of the countries worst affected with at least 33 people dead and damage worth 9,000bn lei (256m; 375m euros), authorities expect the rain to tail off by the end of the weekend.

Authorities were still looking for two people reported missing in the country's central Harghita region but chances of finding them were said to be slim.

Clear-up

Water levels were also dropping in Germany, Austria, Bulgaria and Poland.

Some 30,000 people were involved in cleaning up and working to prevent further flooding, with around 1.5 million sandbags still in place across southern Germany.

There were more landslides and flooding in the southern Austrian provinces of Styria and Carinthia caused by overnight rain, but no reports of casualties.

Main access routes to the popular mountain resorts in Austria's western Tyrol region were reopened.

Power and telephone connections were expected to be restored in the area by Saturday night.

The Austrian government estimates the damage at hundreds of million of euros.





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