SWOLLEN rivers gushed into the old section of Passau in south-eastern Germany yesterday, as flood water rose to levels not seen in the city for more than five centuries.
It was one of the worst places hit by flooding that has spread across a large area of central Europe, following heavy rainfall. At least eight people are reported to have died and nine are missing due to floods in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.
Prague was on full alert to cope with the flooding. The Czech government ordered the deployment of 2,000 soldiers to help shore up flood defences and sections of the city were cleared of people as the River Vltava threatened to burst its banks and engulf the historic heart of a city regarded as one of Europe’s most beautiful.
Days of torrential rain have left much of central Europe struggling, with Austria and southern Germany suffering the most serious problems, and Slovakia and Hungary braced for a deluge as flood waters stream down the Danube.
In Passau, a crisis centre spokesman said: “The situation is extremely dramatic.”
Much of the city was inaccessible on foot and the electricity supply was shut down as a precaution, he said. Rescuers were using boats to evacuate residents from flooded parts of the city.
With water from the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers relentlessly pouring into the city, water was advancing into previously dry streets – in one case going from dry to ankle-deep in half an hour. Markers set in 1954, when the city suffered its worst floods in living memory, have disappeared beneath the rising water. A German news agency said the water levels were the highest recorded there since 1501.
Authorities in the Czech Republic said more than 7,000 people had had to be evacuated as the swollen Vltava River continued to rise. The health ministry warned of possible outbreaks of waterborne diseases, as flooding knocks out water supplies and washes sewage on to the streets.