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Last Updated: Monday, 24 April 2006, 13:07 GMT 14:07 UK
Evacuations as Danube dams burst
Villagers with belongings
Villagers have had to pack up their belongings to leave home
About 1,500 people in flood-hit southern Romania have been forced to flee their homes after the Danube river burst through defences.

The water broke through despite efforts to reinforce the dams near the villages of Bistret and Oltina.

Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary have been affected by flooding caused by the swollen Danube.

Thousands of hectares of land have been swamped and thousands of homes have been evacuated.

Heavy rainfall and melting snow have pushed the Danube to its highest level for more than a century.

In Bistret, emergency officials say the swollen river has forced a gap about 100m (330ft) wide through a dyke that had been reinforced.

Every day it becomes harder and harder because the dykes are under pressure for a very long period of time
Modalan Michaelevic,
Romanian water authority

"The situation is very bad here. Half of the dyke was broken last night and we could not repair it," Bistret Mayor Constantin Raicea told Reuters news agency.

"We have evacuated 1,500 people so far, and they went to relatives and friends in the villages near Bistret."

Thousands more could be moved if the situation worsens. Tents have been put up to house those evacuating.

Emergency workers say record water levels on the Danube have taken longer than expected to recede and are placing a huge strain on flood defences.

The head of the Romanian water authority, Modalan Michaelevic, says it has been a constant battle.

"We are trying to keep the situation under control," he told the BBC's Newshour programme. "Every day it becomes harder and harder because the dykes are under pressure for a very long period of time.

"But all the people from this field are fighters, and they are fighting. We are working with helicopters there [and] in boats, because we don't have an access road to go by truck. It is like a war there."

Economic losses from this year's floods are not thought to be as high as they were last year or in 2002, when large areas of Central Europe were submerged by swollen river waters.

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