The flooding in Central Europe continues to submerge parts of cities and swamp agricultural land. In the eastern German region around Dresden, people have been struggling to hold back the overflow of the Elbe River, which crested almost seven metres above its normal level on Wednesday night. Thousands of residents were evacuated from their homes as volunteers and soldiers piled sandbags, fighting the worst floods here in a decade.
One Dresden resident said: “The people are fantastic, sticking together, in spite of the fear.”
Upstream, the Elbe surged through the Czech Republic, flooding claiming eight people’s lives – more elsewhere; thousands moved to higher ground.
Geography can make a deadly difference, with variations in catchment areas; in Decin the Elbe was even higher than around Dresden, though did not reach the record set in Bohemia eleven years ago. Water levels were falling on all Czech rivers on the fifth day of flooding, but the surge of water along the Elbe was still making its way north into Germany.
The chemical plant at Lovosice was spared behind a protective barrier.
At least one chemical factory north of Prague was flooded when a barrier broke. Workers and dangerous substances had already been moved. Several villages, smaller towns and acres of farm land were submerged.
Water in Prague began to recede, and assessing the damage and cleaning up started. To the south, parts of Austria were flooded while the Danube was expected to have crested in Slovakia by now.
The Danube is the continent’s second-longest river, after the Volga. In the Slovak capital Bratislava, barriers were expected to hold back the worst. In Budapest, Hungary, more than 1,000 people piled sandbags.
East of Austria’s capital, Vienna, people in the vineyard region of Wachau remained tense. Many are cut off by the flooding; power has been shut off and drinking water is unreliable.
Bratislava has seen the river volume triple; it is expected to swell more during the night.
The destructive 2002 flooding came from more than a week of continuous heavy rain. That was considered a once in a century occurrence. The cost in material terms this time is also expected to run into billions of euros, including the displacement of populations, the disruption of economic activity and the ravaging of the environment.