At least 10 die in Czech floods


At least 10 people died in flooding in the eastern Czech Republic, and rising river levels prompted flood warnings across central Europe following heavy rains this week.

The 10 Czechs died near the country's border with Poland and Slovakia, with most of the damage near the town of Novy Jicin, 260km east of Prague.

Officials said at least six people were drowned late last night and four more died when medical teams were unable to reach them.

Rescuers evacuated hundreds of people from wrecked houses and buildings threatened by high water, and the government moved to deploy up to 1,000 soldiers to help.

The flooding is the central European country's worst natural disaster since heavy floods in 2002, when 17 people died and water ravaged the historic centre of Prague, costing the state around $3 billion in repair costs.

The governor of the hardest hit region, Jaroslav Palas, said the damages now would run into the tens of millions of dollars.

In Austria, the river Danube has risen this week after some of the heaviest rainfalls in 50 years. The water level was expected to peak in Vienna today as rainfalls ebbed.

Vienna's Albertina Museum, home to landmark impressionist works by Monet and Renoir, started evacuating 950,000 artworks today from its leaking underground depot.

Around 13,000 police, firefighters and soldiers worked to stem the floods yesterday. Some villages along rivers flowing towards the Danube were cut off and cellars and roads were underwater, mainly in the region west of the Austrian capital.

Bratislava declared a second-degree alert in western Slovakia, where the Danube was expected to crest later in the day.

Hungary put first or second degree alerts in place for the upper section of the Danube.

Budapest has called the highest alert for the lower section of the northwestern Raba river.

The Polish National Security Centre said rivers topped warning levels in 43 places and alarm levels in another 20. Flood alarms were introduced in parts of southern Poland.

Czech meteorologists forecast more rain into the weekend.