Ten Czechs die as floods hit central Europe
Prague -- Torrential downpours unleashed devastating floods in several central European countries, taking the death toll Thursday to at least 10 people amid extensive damage in eastern Czech Republic.
The deluge also hit Romania, where four people were injured by lightning during a heavy storm north of Bucharest, with heavy flooding also reported in several regions of Austria, Germany and Poland.
Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer assured reporters in Prague that the situation was "under control" as the national security council met on Thursday.
Fischer said the flood had claimed at least nine lives, including five drowned in rising floodwaters as rivers burst their banks, and several were still missing.
Later on Thursday afternoon, the CTK news agency reported a 10th victim, a homeless man who had drowned in a brook near Novy Jicin in the east of the country.
"The water level is stabilising," after rescue work ended on Thursday morning and "work on cleaning up began immediately," the prime minister said, adding a thousand troops were mobilised to help clean up after the flooding.
The Czech government will earmark 54 million koruna (2.1 million euros, 2.9 million dollars) for the affected region where the floods closed many roads and railways and cut off power supplies to whole towns.
The town of Novy Jicin, with population of 26,500, has declared a state of emergency.
The victims include a 55-year-old woman who drowned in a flooded river near Novy Jicin on Wednesday night, and two brothers aged 50 and 55, who drowned when trying to save their mother in Jesenik nad Odrou, a local police spokeswoman said.
At least 120 people had to be evacuated during the night, among them pensioners from an old people’s home threatened by gas leaking from a cracked pipe near a flooded river.
"It happened very quickly, people had no time to do anything," the mayor of the village of Belotin, Eduard Kavala, told CTK.
Across the border, Poland declared a flood alert after downpours that hit the south and northeast of the country during the night.
About 50 families were evacuated in the Krakow region, while in Upper Silesia water flooded a railway station, disrupting traffic. In Lower Silesia, a river flooded several villages.
Polish forecasters said the situation was likely to stabilise on Thursday.
The situation in Bavaria in southern Germany started to improve slightly as water levels decreased at night, flood forecasters at the Bavarian bureau for the environment in Munich said Thursday.
Earlier this week, roads and fields in Bavaria were flooded after heavy rains.
In Austria, the situation remained critical in the eastern province of Burgenland, where fire brigades and rescuers worked hard on Thursday.
In the southeastern province of Styria, several towns that were flooded on Wednesday started to clean up. The situation in Lower Austria improved but several streets were still flooded and closed on Thursday.
In Romania, storms and strong gusts of wind avoided the capital of Bucharest but caused floods in two districts in the south of the country.