Floods sweep through central Europe

Updated: 2013-06-05 08:02

By Agencies in Prague (China Daily)

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Floods sweep through central Europe

The village of Zalezlice is flooded by the swollen Vltava River, 36 km north of Prague, on Tuesday. Heavy rainfalls caused flooding in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. Vit Simanek / CTK via Reuters

Floods sweep through central Europe

A couple try to save three small kittens hidden in a plastic bag, in the swollen Botic creek in Prague's suburb of Zabehlice, Czech Republic, on Sunday. Roman Vondrous / CTK via Reuters

11 dead after rivers overflow; thousands forced from their homes

Swathes of suburban Prague were under water on Tuesday after floods that have killed 11 people swept across central Europe, and the deluge moved toward Germany, where more than 10,000 people have been forced from their homes.

Areas to the south and north of the Czech capital were submerged, including the city's zoo and horse racing track, in the worst flooding in a decade, which followed days of heavy rain. But metal barriers erected along the banks of the Vltava River protected the historical city center.

Forecasters said receding rains will help water levels to drop across the Czech Republic, but that parts of Germany, Slovakia and Hungary, will be hit in the coming days.

"The last victim (in the Czech Republic) was a lady who was walking her dog in a park on Monday evening and who died under an eroded tree that fell on her," said police spokeswoman Pavla Kopecka.

Fire brigades evacuated 8,340 people on Tuesday.

In Germany, about 10,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in low-lying areas of Saxony and thousands more from parts of Bavaria.

The 11 deaths since the weekend occurred across the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland and Germany, with the latest two reported in the southern German town of Guenzburg, on the Danube.

Shipping stopped

Many rivers across the region have broken their banks and spilled across the countryside.

High water is likely to stop shipping on the Rhine in southern Germany until at least Thursday morning, a state agency said.

Shipping was stopped over the weekend on southern sections of the river as rain caused a sharp rise in water level. The river remained closed to shipping south of Koblenz on Tuesday, the navigation authority in Baden-Wuerttemberg state said. The European floods 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.

Officials said the Vltava had likely peaked early on Tuesday in Prague, but thousands of people were evacuated from towns and cities downstream. Spolana, a chemical factory in Neratovice, north of Prague, said it had moved dangerous substances to a safe location and ceased all production.

Terezin, a town north of Prague with a memorial to a Nazi-era concentration camp, was evacuated late on Monday, and Usti nad Labem, the main city in the northern Czech Republic, braced for possibly record-high water levels.

Carmaker Volkswagen temporarily shut its plant in Zwickau, in the eastern German state of Saxony, because the flooding stopped workers from reaching the factory.

Large parts of the Prague Metro remained shut on Tuesday and officials said it will not reopen for days. Around 60 streets have been closed to car traffic, and some tram lines have also been shut down.

The heavy rainfall has triggered nightmarish memories of the 2002 floods that killed dozens in the region, including 17 in the Czech Republic alone, and damage estimated at 20 billion euros ($26 billion) was inflicted across the region.

Prague residents mostly kept calm, having gained experience from a decade ago. "I think Prague is relatively well prepared. They have the flood defenses put up ... There was more water in 2002," said university lecturer Milos Sedlacek, 72, after he got off a bus that replaced the suspended underground service.