Raises toll; adds situations in eastern and southern Germany, state of emergency in Czech Republic

Countries in Central Europe were suffering from their worst flooding in more than a decade on Sunday after days of heavy rains left at least three people dead and inundated homes and motorways.

Two people were killed when a dacha collapsed in the Czech Republic, where the government declared a state of emergency. Three people were missing on two rivers in Bohemia.

A man in Austria died in a mudslide as water levels also rose dangerously in Germany and Switzerland.

The fire department in Prague erected flood barriers to protect the capital’s historic centre from the flooding Vltava River and most subway traffic was halted.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered the stricken areas of her country the “full support” of the federal government, including sending military troops to aid in relief efforts, her spokesman said.

States of emergency were declared and evacuations ordered as overflowing rivers in Germany flooded roads in the eastern states of Saxony and Thuringia as well Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg in the south.

The floods are the worst to hit the region since the deluge of 2002, then described as a “once-in-a-century event.” “We have a very critical night and a critical morning ahead of us,” Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas said on Sunday evening.

Austrian and Swiss roads and railway lines were flooded or made impassable by landslides. The chief motorway between Munich and Salzburg was closed near the border.

The historic centre of Passau – where the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers meet – was underwater on Sunday. Emergency services in the south-east Bavarian town expected the Danube to rise above 11 metres.

The current record of 10.81 metres was set in the 2002 floods.

In Berchtesgaden, a Bavarian city near the Austrian border, the gate of a mountain lake broke, sending masses of water streaming into a sparsely populated valley.

All bridges over the Tiroler Achen river in Upper Bavaria were blocked. The cities of Unterwoessen and Schleching were cut off from the outside world, and parts of Rosenheim were evacuated.

Evacuations were also conducted in Greiz in Thuringia, and residents in Zwickau in Saxony were brought to safety by rescue workers. About 2,000 residents in Grimma were also evacuated. Water in the Mulde river was a few centimetres from the top of a dam.

Two people were missing in Baden-Wuerttemberg’s Reutlingen after they were believed to have fallen into a river.

In Steinmauern, a driver ignored street barricades and drove into floodwaters that carried his car off the street and into trees. The four people inside scrambled onto the roof of the car, and 10 fire department employees sent in a boat to their rescue had to be rescued themselves after the boat overturned.

Further significant rainfall was expected in Saxony, the state environment ministry said. Meanwhile, the retention basins of some reservoirs were almost at full capacity.

Shipping was halted on extensive stretches of the Rhein, Main and Neckar rivers.

“We only expect waters to peak on June 4,” a spokesman for the Rhineland-Palatinate flood warning centre said. “Until then, levels will continue to rise.” Switzerland already suspended shipping along a 30-kilometre stretch of the Rhine after officials in Basel reported it had reached a critical level of 8.3 metres.

Residents of Switzerland’s third-largest city were warned to stay away from the Rhein’s banks.

The Austrian town of Ettenau was evacuated, and three workers were caught in a mudslide in St Johann in Pongau near Salzburg. One was carried away and died.

The floods followed the second-wettest May in 130 years, the German weather service said. Germany’s soil is moister than at any time in the last 50 years, it said.

(This article was published on June 3, 2013)
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