Flooding in central Europe kills 12 as suburban Prague submerged

Merkel pledges €100m to victims of deluge as high water shifts to eastern Germany

 

Chancellor Angela Merkel promised €100 million to victims of Germany’s worst flood in a decade today as she toured areas devastated by the deluge which has claimed 12 lives across central Europe.

Swathes of suburban Prague were submerged but metal barriers along the Vltava river shielded the historic centre as the high water shifted north to eastern Germany.

In the German state of Saxony, about 10,000 people were forced from their homes, and thousands more were evacuated in Bavaria.

About 4,000 German soldiers were called in as well as more than 2,000 federal disaster workers and 600 federal police to sandbag areas in danger of flooding and provide other assistance. Water levels were still rising in major rivers such as the Danube and Elbe as well as tributaries.

The 12 deaths have occurred in the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland and Germany since the weekend. Forecasters said receding rains would help water levels to drop across the Czech Republic, but that parts of Slovakia and Hungary, as well as Germany, would be affected in coming days.

Chancellor Merkel, who faces an election in September and hopes to win a third term, was keen to show she was helping those affected as she visited the Bavarian city of Passau, where soldiers had been piling sandbags and clearing mud.

“Even if the water level is slowly retreating (in Passau), the effects will be felt for a long time,” she told reporters gathered around her on a street. “Therefore €100 million of emergency aid is available from the state (of Bavaria) and the federal government. We are splitting it 50:50.” “Now it is a matter of getting the aid quickly to people.”

Meteorologists predicted the worst might be over for cities such as Passau but warned of flooding in the historic city of Dresden and nearby Meissen, both devastated when similar floods swept across central Europe in 2002. In those floods a decade ago, 17 people were killed in the Czech Republic, and damage estimated at €20 billion was inflicted.

Dr Merkel later visited Pirna in Saxony and was due to stop in Greiz, in the eastern state of Thuringia in the afternoon. German Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer said he expected the damage in Germany to cost hundreds of millions of euro.

In the Czech Republic, areas to the south and north of the capital Prague were under water today, including the zoo and horse racing track. Large parts of its subway system stayed shut with officials saying they would not reopen for days.

The rain in Prague has halted but the Vltava river that runs through the city and flows into the Elbe is still raging, with currents and water levels far exceeding the norm. The famous Charles Bridge was closed as a precaution.

On the outskirts of Prague, a major Staropramen beer brewery on the river bank was closed as a protective measure — as were several major chemical factories. One of them — Spolana — released dangerous toxic chemicals into the Elbe during the devastating floods of 2002.

Authorities said the level of the Vltava in Prague has begun to drop but excess water is expected to soon hit the Elba river, into which it flows downstream

Czech electricity producer CEZ shut down its Melnik 2 and 3 coal-fired power plants on today as a preventative action against floods on the Elbe river. Spolana, a chemical factory in Neratovice, north of Prague, said it had moved dangerous substances to a safe location and shut down all production.

The floods across the region sent shares in reinsurers Munich Re and Hannover Re down by about 2.5 percent on Monday, with markets anticipating big claims from property owners once the waters recede.

High water is likely to stop shipping on the Rhine in south Germany until at least Thursday morning, the local navigation authority said.

Reuters/AP