Budapest braced for record Danube levels as floods continue

Hungary’s parliament expected to extend state of emergency along large stretches of Danube

Traffic signs emerge from the river banks of the swollen Danube in Budapest. Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban,  said the city could face major problems not only from the height of the water but from damage and disruption to sewage works and other systems.  Photograph: Reuters/Laszlo Balogh

Traffic signs emerge from the river banks of the swollen Danube in Budapest. Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, said the city could face major problems not only from the height of the water but from damage and disruption to sewage works and other systems. Photograph: Reuters/Laszlo Balogh

 


The Danube has risen to record heights as Hungary hopes the efforts of thousands of emergency workers and volunteers to reinforce the city’s flood defences will be enough to avert disaster.

The river, Europe’s longest after the Volga in Russia, was expected to peak at almost nine metres in Budapest last night or this morning, and has for days covered the normally busy roads beside the embankment and edged closer to Hungary’s grand parliament building.

Having warned that some 55,000 people might have to be evacuated in a low-lying Budapest suburb if the river breached barriers of sandbags, officials said yesterday such drastic action would probably not be necessary.

But prime minister Viktor Orban, who over the weekend travelled between towns and villages threatened by the swollen river, said Budapest could face major problems not only from the height of the water but from damage and disruption to sewage works and other systems.

“We now have to gather all our strength,” Mr Orban said. “The [floods] are approaching the heart of the country now, we can say that the next two days will be decisive. We will defend every section of dyke and protect every single person.”

About 1,500 Hungarians have been forced to leave their homes in recent days and dozens of roads are closed due to the floods. Hungary’s parliament is expected today to extend a state of emergency along large stretches of the Danube.

At least 21 people have died due to floods after heavy rain across central Europe, with the Czech Republic, Austria, southern and eastern Germany, Slovakia and Hungary worst affected.