Almost 2,700 evacuated in Czech Republic over rising floods

At least six dead and two missing as heavy rains sweep Central Europe

A sign warns of floods as rainfall continues  near inundated streets in the town of Grimma, near Leipzig, Germany. Authorities in the  state of Saxon have declared Grimma a disaster area, according to local media. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

A sign warns of floods as rainfall continues near inundated streets in the town of Grimma, near Leipzig, Germany. Authorities in the state of Saxon have declared Grimma a disaster area, according to local media. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

 

The worst floods to hit the Czech Republic in a decade forced the evacuation of almost 2,700 people from low-lying areas while the rising water threatened Prague’s historic centre, forced school closures and disrupted public transport.

Czech police have said at least five people have died in the flooding. Firefighters evacuated homes in western regions and in villages outside the capital yesterday and today, rescuing 200 people.

Flooding was also reported in Austria and water levels rose in Germany and Poland after heavy rain in central Europe over the past week swelled rivers. At least one person died and two were missing in Austria near Salzburg.

The subway network in central Prague was halted today due to the weather - the first time since massive floods submerged the city in 2002 and caused massive damage in the Czech Republic.

Czech prime minister Petr Necas declared a state of emergency for most of the nation yesterday and pledged 300 million crowns (€11.65 million) for relief efforts.

Troops started putting anti-flood barriers in place in Prague and volunteers helped pile up sandbags in areas popular with tourists in the ancient centre. The landmark Charles Bridge was closed and workers evacuated parts of Prague zoo.

Levels on the Vltava river that cuts through Prague’s centre continued to rise today. A spokeswoman for the state river management company said the levels could peak in the afternoon likely at half the level recorded in 2002.

Meteorologists said the steady rains that have hit the country in the past week could ease in coming days, according to CTK news agency.

Weather forecast

The Czech weather forecasting service said rains in central Bohemia will lighten up today and end by midweek.

An additional 15mm is expected today, after more than twice that amount pounded the country yesterday.

The Czech Republic is not alone in central Europe to suffer from flooding. At least four people died or are missing in Germany and Switzerland, the Associated Press reported, while one perished in neighbouring Austria.

The German cities of Passau, about 30 miles from the Czech border, and Rosenheim declared a state of emergency, and Passau requested help from the federal army.

Bavaria’s flood alert service warned that the forecast of continuing heavy rain was likely to worsen the flooding affecting the Danube and the Inn, among other rivers. Bavaria, Austria Rivers in Saxony and Baden-Wuerttemberg, as well as in Bavaria, have burst their banks, according to a Sueddeutsche Zeitung report.

Soldiers were deployed to assist people in two German states as heavy rains caused what may have been the worst flooding in more than a decade. Troops were sent to Saxony in the eastern part of the country and Bavaria in the south, where water from the Donau river rose to 10.58m (35 feet), just shy of the 10.80m reached during floods in 2002, according to data compiled by the Bavarian Environment Ministry.

“We expect water levels to rise further, and at some river segments we expect flooding of the magnitude last seen in 1999 and 2002,” Natascha Gruenpeter, a spokeswoman for the ministry, said by phone.

Meanwhile, a man was found dead in Salzburg, Austria, and two others are missing, according to the Salzburger Nachrichten. The army is also helping civil authorities.

Bratislava, the capital of neighboring Slovakia, and Budapest in Hungary were also preparing for flood defence on the Danube River.

Reuters/Bloomberg