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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 April 2006, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Danube to get flood alert scheme
Soldiers help reinforce dam in Romania
Soldiers help reinforce a breached dam in Romania
Trials for a new flood alert system are to be introduced by the end of the year in the Danube region - currently overwhelmed by rising flood waters.

The international agency responsible for the scheme says it will eventually replace national systems to co-ordinate flood defences along the entire basin.

Melting snow and incessant rain have swollen the Danube to its highest level for more than a century.

Rescue workers in southern Romania are working to prevent dams being breached.

Hundreds of families have evacuated their homes and thousands more could be moved as defences come under pressure.

Pilot scheme

The new integrated early warning system will be overseen by the Vienna-based International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River, or ICPDR.

The BBC's Central and South-east Europe analyst Gabriel Partos says there is a long history of regional co-operation among the countries of the Danube basin when it comes to navigation, and more recently environmental protection has received a strong boost.

But until now the flood alert system has been organised on a strictly national basis.

The ICPDR's senior flood expert, Igor Liska, says the new system will give up to 10 days' warning of expected floods.

Initially it will be launched as a pilot scheme on the upper and middle reaches of the Danube. Subsequently, it will be extended to the entire length of the river.

Appeal

In the meantime, thousands of people in the Balkans are dealing with the threat to lives and property.

Some farmland and forest areas have been deliberately flooded to protect towns.

We are working to defend their houses and any additional hand is welcomed
Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu

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.

Police and soldiers have been helping people flee the flood waters in parts of Romania, such as the village of Bistret, where rescue teams were working to repair a dam.

Local authorities are preparing to move thousands more people to higher ground if necessary.

Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu has appealed to local people to help rescue teams reinforce dykes.

"I can tell them that we are working to defend their houses and any additional hand is welcomed," he told the state radio.

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.



Have you been affected by the floods? Click on the link below to send us your stories and comments.

You can send pictures or video to yourpics@bbc.co.uk or by mms by dialling +44 (0)7725 100100. You should not endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws.




SEE ALSO:
Swollen Danube reaches Ukraine
18 Apr 06 |  Europe
In pictures: Europe floods
17 Apr 06 |  In Pictures
Flooding swamps Bulgarian homes
14 Mar 06 |  Europe


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