Floods in Poland claim 15th victim

 

THE DEATH toll from Poland’s worst flooding in a century rose to 15 yesterday, as swollen rivers flowing north to the Baltic Sea burst their banks in several places.

Thousands of people have been evacuated in recent days with many more on standby to flee their homes near the Vistula and Oder rivers. Flood waters began to recede yesterday in southern Poland, worst hit by heavy rainfall, putting pressure on flood barriers further north.

The latest victim of the flooding was a 49-year-old man from the town of Tarnobrzeg in southeastern Poland. His body was spotted by a neighbour and fished from the flood waters on Sunday evening by another neighbour in a boat.

“As the water has started falling, rescuers have found the bodies of people who had been declared missing,” said an interior ministry spokeswoman. “The wave is moving north so we have already reassigned units of firemen and heavy equipment there to be ready when it comes.”

Huge volumes of water caused the Vistula river to breach a dyke near Warsaw. Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz ordered 120 schools and kindergartens in the capital located near the Vistula to remain closed for a second day. She also closed a major Warsaw thoroughfare running along the river. “We hope nothing more will happen but we have to be ready to act if need be,” said Ms Gronkiewicz-Waltz.

Up and down the country, civilians joined emergency rescue teams in placing sandbags along at-risk flood barriers.

A spokesman for Poland’s fire service said the heavy rainfall had caused flooding of a kind last seen in 1884. Polish prime minister Donald Tusk has said the total cost of flood damage to date could top 10 billion zloty (€2.43 billion). As the water began to flow north, he said the situation in the southern half appeared to have stabilised.

Meteorologists are predicting further heavy rain in the north of the country in the coming days.

In neighbouring Germany, towns along the river Oder border are bracing themselves for flooding today and for the rest of the week.

The floods have complicated campaigning for Poland’s presidential election next month. The ruling Civic Platform (PO) has postponed its party convention planned for May 30th.

Party candidate Bronislaw Komorowski, currently acting president, urged his political rivals to add to the PO’s 250,000 zloty flood emergency fund.