Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Massive flooding through Germany, Poland, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Austria

Surging rivers threaten cities in Czech Republic, Germany

By Laura Smith-Spark, Ivana Kottasova andBen Brumfield, CNN
updated 9:01 AM EDT, Wed June 5, 2013

A woman cleans mud from the footpath in front of her house following flooding along the Inn River in Schaerding, Austria, on Wednesday, June 5. Rising rivers menaced swaths of Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria on Tuesday, as floodwaters inundated historic cities and forced mass evacuations of low-lying areas.

(CNN) -- Parts of the Czech Republic and Germany braced for flooding Wednesday as surging rivers threatened more cities.

The floods are thought to be the worst since August 2002, when parts of Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Russia and Romania were affected.

Eight people have died as a result of this week's flooding in the Czech Republic, fire service spokeswoman Nicole Zaoralova said.

"The situation is still critical in the city of Usti," she said. "We are expecting the situation on the River Labe (Elbe) in the northern Bohemia region of Ustecko to become worse during the day. The river has not peaked yet, and the levels are rising."

"The situation in the next few days will obviously depend on the current weather situation. As of the moment, more heavy rains are forecast for the weekend."

The Elbe crosses the border into the eastern German state of Saxony soon after it passes through Usti nad Labem, so German cities downstream such as Dresden are also expecting the surge to arrive.

The Czech fire service is moving heavy equipment to regions that are still at risk, Zaoralova said.

In other areas in southern Bohemia, the focus is shifting to cleaning up, with equipment deployed to clear mud, she said.

More than 19,000 people have been evacuated from their homes, Zaoralova said.
Close to 23,000 firefighters, including volunteers, have been deployed across the Czech Republic so far, she said.

The Vltava River, which flows through the historic capital, Prague, has peaked there, but the fire service is monitoring for large debris that could damage landmarks such as the centuries-old Charles Bridge.

An excavator has been stationed on the bridge, which is much loved by tourists and locals, to ward off damaging wreckage.

Flood waters are starting to recede in some low-lying parts of the city.

Volunteer efforts

Saxony in eastern Germany is the most vulnerable area Wednesday, after river levels dropped slightly in much of Bavaria, farther south.

Flood warnings are in place for areas around the rivers Elbe, Lausitzer Neisse, Mulde, tributaries of the upper Elbe, Black Elster, Spree and White Elster, according to the German meteorological service.
Danny Arguello, an international business student in Dresden, told CNN iReport that he was impressed by the outpouring of volunteer support as residents try to protect the city.

As the rising Elbe River covers roads and sidewalks, groups of volunteers organized through Facebook are cooking food, moving sandbags and helping with other flood preparations, he said.
"The participation around the whole town is just amazing," he said.

In Bavaria, the Danube River has topped flood defenses downstream from Deggendorf. And in Vilshofen, it is about 125 centimeters (4 feet) above the highest flood stage, it said.

Water levels remain extremely high on the Danube between Regensburg and Passau, in southern Bavaria, the meteorological service said.

In Passau, where the Danube River is joined by two other rivers, water levels topped a 500-year-old record Tuesday.

At least two men are reported to have died in Germany's southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.
A fireman died Saturday after suffering a heart attack while responding to flooding in Wilhelmsdorf, according to the state's Interior Ministry.

read more at CNN

Germany's Dresden expects peak in flooding

Floods Across Central Europe:
Heavy rains swelled major rivers in Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria causing widespread destruction. 


Published: June 5, 2013

PIRNA, Germany — Officials in eastern Germany’s river cities and towns on Wednesday urged citizens in vulnerable areas to evacuate their homes as the Elbe River and its tributaries swelled ever higher, amid some of the worst flooding that some regions have seen in centuries.

As Germany battles severe flooding in parts of the country, the cost of the damage is hitting Europe's biggest economy just as it has barely overcome a harsh winter that has driven it to the brink of recession.

In the first quarter of 2013, German Gross Domestic Product grew by just 0.1 percent. The country just managed to avoid a recession, which is defined as two successive quarters of economic contraction.

Much of the hope for economic recovery lies with key economic indicators which predict accelerating growth in the coming months.

However, economists are becoming more and more skeptical about the country's growth outlook as they fear that the much-vaunted spring upswing might drown in the deluge.

"As the flood levels rose, so did the problems for German businesses," says Alexander Schumann, chief economist at the German chambers for Industry and Commerce (DIHK).

He told DW that it was especially the construction industry which had been unable to boost activity due to the heavy rainfall. The sector was particularly hard hit, as it was already facing a huge backlog of orders stemming from the long and harsh winter in Germany.
As water levels rise in Germany's flood zones, the situation is growing more dramatic. It has been just over a decade since the country's last flood crisis, but little has been learned from that, critics say.

Members of the Federal Agency of Technical Relief (THW) load sandbags in Hirschfeld near Leipzig
REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
In 2002, torrential rainfall had led the Elbe River and its tributaries to burst their banks. Unprecedented water levels were recorded particularly in eastern Germany. The first major flood of the new century put the issue of flood prevention at the top of the political and social agenda.

But Andreas Schumann, a water supply expert at Germany's Ruhr University, says the memory of the 2002 catastrophe has already faded, adding, "We have an incredible deficit when it comes to awareness about flooding."

That is a problem in places where people have moved closer to the rivers from generation to generation, which is true in many parts of Germany.

Flooded streets near Chemnitz in the state of Saxony
Photo: Arvid Müller/dpa
"We must keep flooding areas free of development," Schumann stresses, but notes that this principle is often abandoned due to people's tendency to underestimate the risks of severe flooding.

The water expert adds that many feel a false sense of security due to the preventative technical measures undertaken, like higher and more stable dams and levies.
No perfect protection
Flooded streets near Chemnitz in the state of Saxony
Saxony was among the German states especially hard hit by the 2002 flooding. When asked how Saxony responded in the years afterward, state parliamentarian and environmental expert Andreas Heinz first said that much money was invested in technological measures like improved dams or larger reservoirs intended to absorb water in emergency situations.

A dike near the Oder River
Photo: Patrick Pleul dpa/lbnAndreas Schumann confesses that such measures represent a step forward. "There, the weak spots were recognized and improved," he said, but added, "There is no such thing as absolute flood protection and technological flood prevention measures must always include considerations of what happens when they fail."

Winfried Lücking, an expert on flood protection with the German environmental group BUND, sees things differently. He says there has not been enough consideration of how the dangers of flooding could be better controlled. At a national conference on river issues in 2002, the federal government urged people to give the bodies of water more space. The point in doing so is reducing water levels by allowing more room for the water to flow, including into flood plains with dikes positioned somewhat further away from riverbanks than they often are currently.

"Regrettably, little has been done," Lücking says. On the Elbe, just a handful of dikes were put in place - and partly due only to heavy pressure and involvement from environmental groups.

Creating adequate dikes, however, represents a mammoth project that cannot be completed quickly. For generations, people have pushed the dikes closer and closer to the rivers themselves as areas near their banks have been developed more heavily. Lücking notes this process cannot simply be reversed within a decade, particularly in light of the complicated planning involved.

'Each event is different'

Undertaking flood prevention measures collides with a number of other interests. Landowners do not want to give up their fields, homeowners are unwilling to part with their residences and communities fear limitations to their development potential. As such, resistance runs high when it comes to allowing more space for rivers to spill over their banks.

"Everyone says, you're welcome to do that, just not near us," explains Winfried Lücking.

German city copes after worst flood in 500 years

Prague Zoo evacuated and Charles Bridge closed as river waters rise

The Associated Press>

Posted: Jun 4, 2013 8:30 AM ET 

Last Updated: Jun 4, 2013 10:50 PM ET

Germany dispatched thousands of soldiers Tuesday to help cities and towns cope with flooding from the rain-soaked Danube and other southern rivers — reinforcements that came a day after the Bavarian city of Passau saw its worst flooding since 1501.
The death toll rose to at least 10, including seven in the neighboring Czech Republic, where a man was found dead in the water in eastern Bohemia. Another nine people have been reported missing in the floods that have also swept through Austria and Switzerland.
Chancellor Angela Merkel toured flooded German regions, pledging €100 million ($135 million Cdn) in immediate federal help and holding out the possibility for more. She told reporters in Passau, a city of 50,000 on the Austrian border, that the damage looked even worse than during the massive flooding that hit central Europe in 2002.
Some 5,000 German soldiers were called in as well as more than 2,000 federal disaster workers and 700 federal police to sandbag areas in danger of flooding and provide other assistance. Water levels were still rising in major rivers such as the Danube and Elbe as well as tributaries.
In the Czech Republic, authorities evacuated animals from the Prague zoo and closed a major bridge in the capital on Tuesday.
The rain in Prague has halted but the Vltava River that runs through the city and flows into the Elbe was still raging, with currents and water levels far exceeding the norm. The famous Charles Bridge was closed as a precaution.

Katerina Sulova / Zuma Press
Prague, Czech Republic - A Humboldt penguin watches flood waters rise from inside its enclosure at the Prague Zoo, as the swollen Vltava river continues to rise.
passau, germanyOn the outskirts of Prague, a major Staropramen beer brewery on the river bank was closed as a protective measure — as were several major chemical factories. One of them — Spolana — released dangerous toxic chemicals into the Elbe during the devastating floods of 2002.
Authorities said the level of the Vltava in Prague has now begun to drop but excess water was expected to soon hit the Elba river, into which it flows downstream.
This year's spike in water levels has been far less than in 2002 so far, but still forced the Prague Zoo to evacuate animals after the lower side of the park was submerged and will once again need major reconstruction.

Passau, a city built around the intersection of the Danube, the Inn and the Ilz rivers, has been one of the worst hit by the flooding in central Europe.
After hitting the highest level in more than 500 years in Passau on Monday, the floodwaters there had dropped by an estimated 2.5 metres Tuesday but cities downstream like Regensburg were bracing for the water's arrival.

Vit Simanek / AP
The Prague Zoo flooded by the swollen river Vltava photographed in this Tuesday June 4 aerial view.
Heavy rainfalls caused flooding in in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic
Flooding in Czech Republic, Germany, Austria

03/06 04:26 CET

The month of June normally heralds the official arrival of summer, but parts of central Europe find themselves struggling with floods.
In the historic centre of Prague, the mayor has warned residents may have to be evacuated from their homes if the River Vitava gets any higher. 300 soldiers are helping to build temporary barriers and pile sandbags around buildings. Another 2000 are on standby.
The Prime Minister has declared a state of emergency for most of the nation. At least two people have died and several others are missing.
Patients have already been evacuated from a hospital under threat from the rising water. Animals have also been rehoused from the city zoo.

Southern and Eastern Germany have also been affected. Three rivers meet here at the city of Passau. Some have resorted to using boats to get around the streets.
And in Austria, torrential rain has caused widespread flooding and landslides, forcing hundreds of people to leave their homes.
Train lines have been closed in affected areas.

Barbara Gindl / EPA
Firefighters begin clean up efforts after water flooded streets and houses in Huettau, Salzburg, Austria, on.June 4. Flooding since June 1 has so far claimed at least nine lives and led to mass evacuations. Several others have been reported missing as a result of the floods, which cover an area stretching from southern Germany, through to Poland, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Austria.

No comments: