Thousands of emergency workers, troops and volunteers in Germany battled yesterday against central Europe’s worst floods in more than a decade, while the swelling Danube River put Budapest on high alert.
Rising flood waters in Germany have forced mass evacuations in what one lawmaker termed a “national catastrophe.”
As Hungary braced for a deluge in its capital, German rescuers focused on the eastern city of Magdeburg. Vast areas around the city were covered in brown water, sparked by recent torrential rains that washed down the Elbe River system from the Czech Republic.
The water level in Magdeburg reached 7.45m in the morning, up from the usual level of about 2m, local authorities said. Despite frantic efforts to secure it, a dam broke yesterday south of the city at the point where the Elbe meets the Saale tributary, the local crisis command said, urging the remaining 150 residents in the region to quickly seek high ground.
Almost 3,000 residents were evacuated from Magdeburg’s Rothensee District, where hundreds of German Army troops struggled to reinforce a dyke protecting a crucial electricity facility.
So far the floods on the Elbe and Danube river systems have killed at least 18 people, including 10 in the Czech Republic.
More townships were evacuated around the Elbe town of Barby. Some of the 8,000 residents of the nearby town of Aken were taken to safety on armored personnel carriers and ambulances.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government was planning a crisis meeting with state premiers to assess how the cost of the disaster will be shared, the Leipziger Volkszeitung daily reported yesterday.
There was growing anger about gawkers hindering the emergency response.
“Disaster tourism is a serious problem,” said Hans-Peter Kroeger, head of the associations of fire brigades, Deutsche Presse Agentur reported. “Sightseers with their cars block roads and depots, get in the way of emergency responders, threaten the safety of dykes and endanger themselves.”