BERLIN (AP) — About 120,000 emergency personnel including firefighters and soldiers were on duty Saturday, working aggressively to contain the most dramatic floods in Germany in a decade. Thousands of residents were still unable to return to their homes, and bridges and streets were impassable in many regions of eastern and southern Germany.
Twenty people reportedly have already died in the floods across central Europe after several days of heavy rains.
German news agency dpa said people in Magdeburg in Saxony-Anhalt were anxiously waiting downstream as the crest of the Elbe river approached Saturday, while residents further upstream were starting to clean up the debris that was left along the river.
In Magdeburg, authorities evacuated a nursing home and turned off electricity in several parts of the city. Where the Saale river meets the Elbe, about 3,000 people had to leave their homes.
High water levels were also reported in Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, while thousands of people in Austria were busy shoveling away mud left by the receding floodwaters of the Danube.
In Hungary, around 2,000 residents of the town of Gyorujfalu northwest of the capital of Budapest were evacuated because authorities were afraid the levees wouldn’t withstand the pressure of the Danube’s waters. Another 980 residents had to leave their homes along the river out of precaution.
The rising waters of the Danube, Europe’s biggest river, were expected to reach Budapest on Monday. The water levels were already at 28.2 feet (8.60 meters) on Saturday and expected to rise to 29.4 feet (8.95 meters) at the peak of the flood — inching close up to the top of the river’s flood fences, which are 30.5 feet (9.30 meters) tall.
In Slovakia, the Danube was still on the rise in the towns of Sturovo and Komarno near the Hungarian border. The situation in Komarno was especially critical as several protective barriers started leaking and volunteers had arrived to reinforce them with sandbags.
In the Czech Republic, the waters were dropping further and clean-up work was under way. However, anti-flood measures were to remain in place as heavy rains and thunderstorms were forecast for the weekend.
Pablo Gorondi contributed reporting from Budapest, Hungary and Karel Janicek from Prague, Czech Republic.