PASSAU, Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged 100 million euros in emergency aid for flood-ravaged areas on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) as surging waters that have claimed at least 11 lives and forced tens of thousands of evacuations across central Europe bore down on eastern Germany.
Heavy rains have turned vast regions into lakes, cut off villages, severed transport links and left historic city centers under muddy brown water. The inundations have also brought back dark memories of devastating floods that killed dozens in 2002.
The largest volumes of water have travelled down two of Europe’s great river systems: the Danube, which runs from Germany through Austria and central Europe into the Black Sea, and the Elbe, which flows from the Czech Republic through eastern Germany into the North Sea.
Merkel travelled by helicopter over the flood zone and visited three impacted areas, starting in Passau, Bavaria, where the Danube meets two other rivers and peaked late Monday at 12.9 meters, the highest level since 1501.
The chancellor vowed the emergency cash would be disbursed in an unbureaucratic way because “what’s important now is that the aid quickly reaches the people.” Property damage in Passau alone was estimated at 20 million euros ($26 million) by the city mayor.
Some people have paddled canoes down flooded streets in Passau, where drinking water, power and phone services were cut. Elsewhere stranded residents were evacuated from their soggy homes by rescue personnel using inflatable boats.
“The damage and the loss of income is a long-term matter. And that’s why our support will not cease,” said Merkel, who faces an election in less than four months and was later photographed helping to fill sandbags.
Across the region, the official death toll rose to 11 as Czech emergency services recovered the body of a man from the swollen Male Labe river in the northern Krkonose mountain range, near the border with Poland.
The deluge killed seven others in the Czech Republic, including a woman who was hit by an uprooted tree as she walked her dog. Two others died in Austria and one in Switzerland. Several more people were missing.
Across much of the swamped region, rail, road and river traffic links were cut, crops destroyed, schools and factories closed and hospitals evacuated.