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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 April 2006, 08:34 GMT 09:34 UK
Swollen Danube reaches Ukraine
Villagers in boat in flooded Fetesti, Romania
Fetesti, Romania: Villagers are struggling to retrieve belongings
The Danube flood wave has now reached the river's delta in Ukraine after hitting many Balkan communities.

Ukrainian emergency teams are shoring up dykes and building sandbag barriers in the Odessa region.

Several thousand people have been removed from their homes in Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria after floods caused by melting snow and heavy rain.

Serb officials say they think the water level has peaked in Belgrade but many areas may be waterlogged for months.

The Danube has reached its highest level since 1895 in Romania, where some farmland and forest areas have been deliberately flooded to protect towns.

The floods have caused huge economic damage in the region, but so far the losses are not on the same scale as last year or 2002 - the year that severe floods wreaked havoc in Central Europe.

High water mark

The BBC's Matt Prodger in Belgrade says ground water levels have risen considerably in Serbia, meaning both residential areas and hundreds of thousands of hectares of agricultural land may be waterlogged for months.

In Romania, flood defences have been weakened in many places by nearly a week of high waters and the villages of Rast and Negoi are now submerged.

Keeping embankments stable is the priority now
Nenad Bogdanovic
Belgrade mayor

The Sava, Tisa and Tamis rivers have also reached dangerous levels.

Floods in the Balkans last year left dozens of people dead and farmland and infrastructure damaged or destroyed.

This year many people had time to reinforce flood barriers as the rivers rose steadily, the BBC's Nick Thorpe reports from Budapest.

The deliberate flooding of some 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres) of rural land has had some success in Romania, he says.

Romanian agriculture ministry spokesman Adrian Tsibu told the BBC that some of these areas may be left as wetland, which was their original state before land was reclaimed.

In other developments:

  • Dozens of buildings were damaged in Belgrade, low-lying areas of which were flooded

  • In Bulgaria about 40% of the Danube port of Nikopol has been flooded and a tent city with space for 1,200 people has been set up near Vidin

Belgrade - flooded street
Many low-lying streets have been flooded in Belgrade
The Danube is now flowing at nearly 16,000 cubic metres a second, more than twice the normal volume in April.

The floods could delay crop-sowing in northern Serbia and other areas, agricultural economist Bill Slee told the BBC.

The head of the Danube Commission, which manages navigation on the Danube, said he was "surprised" by the river's high level.

"It's incredible, it's the first time in the history of our great river, and that's why we are preparing a [flood-prevention] plan for the future," Daniel Nedialkov told the BBC's World Today programme.



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BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Several villages along the Danube's banks are immersed



SEE ALSO:
In pictures: Europe floods
17 Apr 06 |  In Pictures
Flooding swamps Bulgarian homes
14 Mar 06 |  Europe



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