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Monday, June 3, 2013

Floods Sweep Through Central Europe

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Footage of the flooding caused by the recent heavy rainfall in Prague. Credit: Vilem Srail

Tens of thousands of people were evacuated, some carried on the backs of rescuers or by boat, in Central Europe as heavy rainfall in the past week swelled rivers that spilled over their banks and flooded streets, businesses and houses. News reports said at least seven people were killed.

Parts of the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany were among the places overwhelmed by the flooding. Reuters reported that five people were killed over the weekend in the Czech Republic, where the flooding was the worst in a decade and a state of emergency was declared, while in Austria two people died.

Visitors or residents posted photographs in Prague of the Charles Bridge or videos of efforts to protect buildings by packing thresholds with sandbags.

The European Commission’s regional policy commissioner, Johannes Hahn, said in a statement that the organization was prepared to help through its European Solidarity Fund, which was set up after dangerous floods swept the region in 2002.

“We very much regret that number of people have lost their lives because of the floods in Austria, Czech Republic and Germany,” he said.

More than a decade ago, the Czech Republic endured its worst rains since 1890. In the summer of 2002, Peter S. Green of The New York Times wrote that the historic center of Prague was under water, and 50,000 residents were ordered evacuated as “rivers swollen by more than a week of near constant rain etched ribbons of destruction across Central Europe and southern Russia.” More than 70 people were killed.

On Monday, outlining some of this week’s hardest hit areas, the European Commission’s humanitarian aid and civil protection department said in a bulletin that heavy rainfall had made rivers overflow in southeastern Germany, and many Danube tributaries reached record water levels.

The government declared a nationwide state of emergency in the Czech Republic, where the Vlata River overflowed.

Andrej Matisak, the deputy head of the foreign desk at the Czech daily newspaper Pravda, posted on his Twitter feed @matisaksk a slide show of the flooding in the Czech Republic.

The British Broadcasting Corporation posted video of the floods, including footage of tigers from the Czech zoo in Prague being transported out of harm’s way, and people sandbagging doorways or bailing out water from inside cars.

In Austria, the Salzburg and Tyrol regions were the hardest hit. A video posted on YouTube, below, shows flooding in Linz, Austria.

Follow Christine Hauser on Twitter @christineNYT.