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Death toll from European flooding rises

The swollen Danube river (right) and the Inn river (left) flood the center of the historic city of Passau, Germany Thursday. Eastern and southern Germany are suffering under floods that in some cases are the worst in 400 years.
The swollen Danube river (right) and the Inn river (left) flood the center of the historic city of Passau, Germany Thursday. Eastern and southern Germany are suffering under floods that in some cases are the worst in 400 years.
Joerg Koch/Getty Images

At least 16 dead as floodwaters continue to plague five nations

The Austrian Civil Protection Authority reported Thursday that four people have died and three others are still missing as a result of recent floods and landslides in the Central European country. That brings the death toll from the severe weather outbreak to at least 16, including eight in the Czech Republic and four in Germany.

The good news in Austria was that river levels there are receding. However, many roads remained closed due to high water or mudslides, which also have disrupted national and international rail traffic.

In the Czech capital, Prague, the level of the Vitava River was declining, but flooding woes continued in other parts of the country. The European Commission reported that rescue operations were still underway in south Bohemia, where a pair of rivers were still rising. Flooding had created a shortage of drinking water in the area.

In neighboring Slovakia, the EC reported that the Danube River was expected to crest Thursday afternoon in Bratislava, on the Austrian border. Floodwaters had overwhelmed river defenses in the village of Devin, at the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers.

Farther downstream, the Danube was expected to reach its highest level in western Hungary on Saturday, according to the Hungarian National Disaster Management Directorate. Work was continuing in the capital, Budapest, to prepare for possible flooding there this weekend.

Hardest hit by flooding Thursday was Germany, where more than 30,000 people have been displaced by rising water levels. The EC said another 30,000 people might have to be evacuated from the city of Halle, on the Saale River. The Saale flows into the Elbe River north of Halle. The Elbe, which is also overflowing its banks in many places, eventually empties into the North Sea near Hamburg.

The Elbe was causing numerous problems in the German state of Saxony. The EC reported many roads were impassable and flooding had forced the closure of schools and some health facilities. In the state capital, Dresden, a disaster alert remained in effect.

Flights were operating normally at the Dresden International Airport, which connects to Chicago via a number of cities that offer non-stop service to and from both points, including Frankfurt, Munich, Barcelona, and London.

Flood clean-up was underway in other parts of Germany where the high water threat had ended. For many people, it was a repeat of the work they had to do after devastating flooding in 2002. This time, though, many in the affected areas have no flood insurance to assist them in paying for the restoration of their homes and businesses.

Udo Schonfeld’s insurance office was among the businesses in the town of Grimma damaged by floodwaters. Ironically, he has no insurance to cover the loss.

“I have no insurance policy for natural disasters,” he told the German news magazine Spiegel. “In the years after the flood catastrophe of 2002, no insurance company would take the risk.”

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