• Thousands flee central Europe floods

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    MAGDEBURG: German authorities urged 15,000 more people to flee their homes in a city on the swollen Elbe river on Sunday (Monday in Manila) as central Europe’s worst floods in a decade also threatened Hungary after causing havoc in the Czech Republic and Austria.

    The river Danube reached a new record high in Budapest but the Hungarian capital’s mayor sought to ease concerns, saying water levels were stabilizing, although about 1,200 people were evacuated along the river.

    The deluge has also sparked massive emergency responses in Austria and Slovakia.
    A torrent of floodwaters in Germany has turned vast areas into a brown water world, sparked a mass mobilization of emergency workers and caused billions of euros in damage in what one lawmaker termed a “national catastrophe.”

    Rescue helicopters criss-crossed the sky and military armored personnel carriers rumbled through the flood zone, where thousands of troops, firefighters and volunteers were
    frantically building up flood defenses with sandbags.

    Across central Europe, the floods have killed at least 18 people, including 10 in the Czech Republic.

    The German city of Magdeburg urged 15,000 residents to leave the east bank of the river Elbe, where an almost 7.5 meter peak—up from the normal level of two meters—was expected to strain saturated dykes for the next few days.

    “We hope that the dykes will withstand the pressure over the coming days, but we can’t be 100 percent sure,” said fire brigade spokesman Andreas Hamann, one of 1,200 emergency staff working around the clock in the area.

    The move was described as a precaution, but a city spokesman said “people really are supposed to leave” in face of the danger. In all, 23,000 people in and around the city have been told to evacuate this weekend.

    Soldiers in Magdeburg were also struggling to save a power installation in the harbour area, as water damage would not only knock out electricity to tens of thousands of homes but also to water pumps running at full tilt.

    The water level in Magdeburg was higher than during “once-a-century” floods of 2002, local authorities said. Magdeburg lies downriver from where the Saale river spills into the Elbe, creating a water surge a record 40 kilometers long.

    AFP

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