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Floods sweep through Prague

04 June 2013, 12:00

Prague - Swathes of suburban Prague were under water on Tuesday after floods which have killed 11 people swept across central Europe, and the deluge moved towards Germany where more than 10 000 people have been forced from their homes.

Areas to the south and north of the Czech capital were submerged, including the city's zoo and horse racing track, in the worst flooding in a decade which followed days of heavy rain. But metal barriers erected along the Vltava river banks protected the historical city centre.

Forecasters said receding rains would help water levels to drop across the Czech Republic, but that parts of Germany, Slovakia and Hungary, would be hit in the coming days.

In Germany, about 10 000 people have been evacuated from their homes in low-lying areas of Saxony and thousands more from parts of Bavaria.

The 11 deaths since the weekend occurred across the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland and Germany, with the latest two reported in the south German town of Guenzburg, on the Danube.

Many rivers across the region have broken their banks and spilled across the countryside.

River closed to shipping

High water is likely to stop shipping on the Rhine in south Germany until at least on Thursday morning, a state agency said.

Shipping was stopped over the weekend on southern sections of the river as rain caused a sharp rise in water level. The river remained closed to shipping south of Koblenz on Tuesday, the navigation authority in Baden-Wuerttemberg state said.

The European floods sent shares in reinsurers Munich Re and Hannover Re down by about 2.5% on Monday, with markets anticipating big claims from property owners once the waters recede.

Officials said levels of the Vltava had likely peaked early on Tuesday in Prague, but thousands of people were evacuated from towns and cities downstream.

Spolana, a chemical factory in Neratovice north of Prague, said it had moved dangerous substances to a safe location and shut down all production.

Terezin, a town north of Prague with a memorial to a Nazi-era concentration camp, was evacuated late on Monday, and Usti nad Labem, the main city in northern Czech Republic, braced for possibly record-high water levels.

Residents calm

Carmaker Volkswagen temporarily shut its plant in Zwickau, in the eastern German state of Saxony, because the flooding stopped workers reaching the factory.

Large parts of the Prague underground system remained shut on Tuesday and officials said it would not reopen for days. About 60 streets have been closed to car traffic, and some tram lines have also been shut down.

The last time central Europe saw similar floods was in 2002, when 17 people were killed in the Czech Republic, and damage estimated at €20bn was inflicted across the region.

Prague residents mostly kept calm, having gained experience from a decade ago. "I think Prague is relatively well prepared. They have the flood defences put up ... There was more water in 2002," said Milos Sedlacek, aged 72, university lecturer, after he got off a bus that replaced the shut underground service.

- Reuters


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