Europe flooding worst in 70 years and still rising
'The situation is extremely dramatic,' Passau, Germany, crisis spokesman says
Waters from three swollen rivers gushed into the old town of Passau in southeast Germany on Monday, as officials warned that water levels — already the highest in 70 years — could rise further.
The city was one of the worst hit by flooding that has spread across a large area of central Europe following heavy rainfall in recent days. At least eight people were reported to have died and nine were missing due to floods in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.
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"The situation is extremely dramatic," Herbert Zillinger, a spokesman for Passau's crisis center, told The Associated Press.
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.
But 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 within half an hour. Markers set in 1954, when the city suffered its worst flooding in living memory, have disappeared beneath the rising water.
The German army said it has sent 1,760 soldiers to help local authorities and volunteers reinforce flood defences particularly in the south and east of the country. Chancellor Angela Merkel planned to visit flood-hit areas Tuesday, her spokesman said.
Elsewhere, authorities in the Czech Republic said more than 7,000 people had to be evacuated as of Monday afternoon as the flood-swollen Vltava River continued to rise.
Those evacuated included residents of southern neighbourhoods in Prague and the town of Terezin also known as Theresienstadt, the former Jewish concentration camp during the Nazi WWII occupation, which is located north of the capital.
Prague's central sewage treatment plant was shut down on Monday to prevent its damage by the high water. That means that the sewage from the capital goes directly to the river. The plant may be restarted Tuesday or Wednesday.
Interim Mayor Tomas Hudecek said animals from a zoo located by the river had been taken to safety. Parts of the city's subway transportation network also were shut down because of flooding.