German Cities Face Flooding Threat

June 14, 2013 No Comments

Central Europe’s rivers are threatening the historic towns along the Elbe and Danube, with Prague already severely affected and large parts of the German city of Passau underwater.

More than 4, 000 German Army personnel have been deployed in four German states to repair flood defences, including dykes, some of which have already burst. Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes and floodwaters have closed the main Munich-Berlin autobahn. The main rail link between Prague and Berlin has also been disrupted, with trains diverted as parts of the track are submerged.

Floods have disrupted the Czech Republic, Germany and Austria. Across the three countries already affected by the flooding, at least 12 people have died and two remain missing. And European countries downstream have braced themselves too, with Poland on high alert and Bratislava and Budapest braced for the onslaught.

In Prague, schools have been closed, the public transport system has largely been shut down and the Charles Bridge closed. The Prague Fire Brigade erected metal flood barriers and sandbag walls in efforts to protect the historic city centre from the swollen River Vltava.

Several German cities have already been affected and more are expected to be flooded before the floods reach their expected peak on Thursday. Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, spoke yesterday from Passau, on the Danube, saying: ‘I spoke to residents who are already cleaning up, and I am aware it will take weeks.’ Passau is currently experiencing its worst flooding for five hundred years, a situation a spokesman for its municipal crisis centre laconically described as ‘extremely dramatic.’

Meanwhile Dresden expects a flood more severe even than the record 2002 inundation, and evacuation have already begun. 600 people have already left their homes and electricity supply to some areas has been switched off. The city has spent millions of Euros on additional flood defences but it is as yet uncertain whether they will be up to the task. The Austrian Meteorological Office said two months’ worth of rain has fallen in just two days over the central European region.

In Halle, in Eastern Germany, streets were already underwater this morning. German News Magazine Der Spiegel reported that water in the city was at its highest level for four hundred years. And in the low-lying industrial city of Usti nad Labem, the River Elbe was spilling over the city’s 10m-high flood barriers, with the peak expected sometime today.

The scale of property damage is serious. Der Spiegel’s online incarnation reported an initial toll of €3bn in Austria alone and the Czech Transport Minister, Zbynek Stanjura, told the Prague Daily Monitor that the floods had caused ‘hundreds of millions of crowns of damage’ to railway tracks in the Czech Republic.

Catastrophe modelling firm Eqecat has warned the insurance industry to expect ‘significant damage,’ according to industry news organ insuranceinsight.com. While Eqecat said the scale of damage from the current floods was unclear, insuranceinsight.com pointed out that the floods of 2002 caused €18.5bn in economic damage.

Additionally, according to a report from the European Environment Agency (EEA), serious flooding is likely to become both more common and more severe in Europe and some towns may have to be rebuilt since one fifth of European cities with over 100, 000 inhabitants is ‘very vulnerable’ to river floods and ‘increases in costs from flooding in recent decades can be partly attributed to more people living in flood-prone areas,’ though the EEA endorsed the opinion of other EU bodies that the floods themselves were probably a result of climate change.

Ms. Merkel told the citizens of Passau that ‘the damage and losses are long-term and our support will not dwindle,’ and pledged €100m in assistance to flood-stricken areas.

Author Les Calvert of Property Abroadspecialists in property in Germany

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