Towns and cities in northern Germany face fresh flood threats as the River Elbe rises to record levels.In Lauenburg, close to the city of Hamburg, the river has risen to 8.74 metres.That is just above the highest level registered in 2002 when northern and eastern Germany suffered devastating floods. In the neighbouring state of Lower Saxony the river is rising at a rate of one centimetre an hour, flooding the historic old town of Hitzacker. Soldiers have for days been placing sandbags along part of the Elbe to limit damage. Experts suggest the water levels will continue to increase over the next two weeks and there are fears that dykes could be breached. Chancellor Angela Merkel has assured the affected region that she will send police, soldiers and rescue workers to help wherever needed.