Germany sends thousands of soldiers to help cities cope with flooding

Death toll rises to at least 10 in flooding also affecting Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 June, 2013, 1:03am


Germany yesterday sent thousands of soldiers to help cities and towns cope with flooding from the rain-swollen Danube and other southern rivers, a day after the Bavarian city of Passau saw its worst flooding since 1501.

The death toll rose to at least 10, including seven in neighbouring Czech Republic, where a man was found dead in the water in eastern Bohemia. Another nine people were missing in the floods, which have also swept through Austria and Switzerland.

German Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel toured flooded German regions, pledging at least €50 million (HK$506 million) in immediate help and holding out the possibility for more. She said the damage in Passau, a city of 50,000 on the Austrian border, looked even worse than during the massive flooding that hit central Europe in 2002.

Some 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.

In Czech Republic, authorities evacuated animals from the Prague Zoo and closed the capital's famous Charles Bridge as a precaution yesterday. The rain in Prague had halted, but the Vltava River that runs through the city and flows into the Elbe was still raging, with currents and water levels far exceeding the norm.

Authorities said the level of the Vltava in Prague had begun to drop, but excess water was expected to soon hit the Elba River, into which it flows downstream.

This year's sharp increase in water levels has so far been much less than in 2002, but still forced the zoo to evacuate animals after the lower side of the park was submerged and will once again need major reconstruction.

Passau - built around the intersection of the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers - has been one of the worst hit by the flooding in central Europe. After hitting the highest level in more than 500 years in Passau on Monday, the floodwaters there had dropped by an estimated 2.5 metres yesterday, but cities downstream like Regensburg were bracing for the water's arrival.

Peak floodwaters coursing out of Czech Republic were expected to hit Dresden, capital of Germany's Saxony province, along the Elbe in three to four days. The German cities of Pirna and Meissen had reported flooding in their historic centres.