Floods continue to punish Central Europe

By bne IntelliNews June 6, 2013

bne -

Flood waters continued their drawn-out persecution of countries around Central Europe on June 5, as the Danube River approaches its highest level in half a century.

As Slovakia and Hungary maintained states of emergency, evacuations continued across the region. Authorities now say 15 have died in total, with at least four others missing. The dead include eight in the Czech Republic, four in Germany, two in Austria and one in Slovakia.

While the Vltava flowing through the Czech capital Prague now appears to pose little more danger, it spent June 5 tormenting the industrial city of Usti nad Labem, spilling over the 10metre-high metal flood barriers. That saw a further 3,000 people evacuated in the area, and saw the total numbers of evacuated in the country pass the 19,000 mark.

To the east, Slovakia maintained its state of emergency as it watched the Danube approach its highest level in 50 years. Bratislava declared a state of emergency on June 4, and southern parts of the city flooded on June 5. The Danube is expected to peak in the city at about three-times normal levels on the evening of June 6, as water from Austria reaches the country, Michaela Mikulickova at the SHMU weather office said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

During the catastrophic floods of 2002, the Danube rose to 991cm. SHMU has predicted that this time around it could break 1,000cm. On June 5 it hit 971cm. The situation is not expected to stabilize before the end of the week.

However, as in Prague - where the authorities have praised the flood defences built in the wake of the 2002 floods - Slovak officials say they have confidence in their ability to cope. "Fixed flood walls and movable metal gates that were built and designed between 2005 and 2010 are now ready to cope with the Danube moving at [17,550 cubic yards] per second," said Lubos Krno, spokesman of the Slovak water-management agency.

To the south, the roads running along the banks of the Danube in Budapest were closed to traffic on June 5 as waters reached their level, and continued to rise. The water level is expected to peak at a depth of 29 feet on June 10, surpassing a record 28.4 feet in 2006, the WSJ reports. Hotels have been evacuated on Margaret Island - a spa centre set on the river in central Budapest.

Several hundred people are scrambling to reinforce 425 miles of the Danube's Hungarian banks with sandbags in country towns. Road traffic has been stopped and diverted to other roads along the region because of the flood threat and to help the flood-prevention authorities, while some railway lines aren't working.

In addition, Hungary is using drones to help with surveillance of flooded and flood-threatened areas, Defense Minister Csaba Hende said. Police meanwhile have expressed concern about possible looting in some areas of Budapest.

In Prague, with the waters now receding, Prime Minister Petr Necas announced on June 5 that the government will increase the emergency budget for transportation infrastructure repairs by CZK2bn (€77m). The government released CZK1.3bn from the infrastructure fund on June 3. A total of 93 roads and seven railroads in Bohemia remain closed. No estimate has yet been released for the cost of the damage to the country's transportation infrastructure caused by the rains and floods.

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