Clean-up efforts kick into gear as floods recede in central Europe

By Vanessa Gera, AP
Monday, August 9, 2010

Residents clean up flood damaged homes in Europe

WARSAW, Poland — Poles, Czechs and Germans struggled Monday to clean up homes and towns badly damaged as the waters of deadly weekend flooding began to recede. But the swollen rivers pushed northward, and other towns and villages braced for possible high waters.

The floods have killed at least 11 people. One of the worst-hit places was the southwestern Polish town of Bogatynia, on the border with the Czech Republic.

The all-news station TVN24 aired images Monday showing the town strewn with rubble. Road were broken, and many homes suffered massive damage, including a house so destabilized by the swollen ground that it was badly tilted.

A bridge in the town was badly damaged; soldiers set up a temporary crossing to bring in food and other supplies.

TVN24 reported that some vendors were taking advantage of a lack of staples by charging 20 zlotys ($6.60) for a loaf of bread, far above the usual price.

In Germany, the situation was most critical in the state of Saxony, along the Neisse River, which forms the border with Poland. Hundreds of residents had to be evacuated.

“We will have massive damage to the infrastructure, but of course also to private property,” Saxony governor Stanislaw Tillich said. He urged Polish authorities to explain how a retaining dam on their side broke down, the German news agency DAPD reported.

The Neisse was expected to top 7 meters (23 feet)— 4.5 meters above its normal level. Some 1,400 people in the region were evacuated over the weekend, and more than 500 have not yet been able to return to their houses, the German news agency DDP reported.

In Bad Muskau, residents were preparing for the flooding and officials feared for a natural park, Fuerst-Pueckler-Park, a UNESCO world heritage site.

As the floods traveled further north, officials worried about waters reaching the Spree River, which runs through Berlin. However, there were no flood warnings for the German capital.

In the Czech Republic, waters were receding Monday and cleanup efforts were under way, helped by more than 300 soldiers.

Almost 1,000 Czech households were still without electricity and about 4,000 were without natural gas. Hundreds of houses and dozens of bridges have been destroyed or badly damaged.

Damage in the Czech Republic is estimated to reach almost 4 billion koruna ($215 million).

Associated Press Writers Juergen Baetz in Berlin and Karel Janicek in Prague contributed to this report.

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