May 26th, 2010

Update: Floods in Central and Eastern Europe

Posted at 9:24 PM ET

middle-europe-flooding-small1Heavy rain has triggered severe floods in parts of central and eastern Europe since mid-May, killing at least 18 people, inundating homes and businesses and causing widespread damage and disruption. Parts of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic have been flooded after days of heavy rain burst river defenses and inundated low-lying areas. The heavy rain was accompanied by strong winds, causing power outages and transportation disruption. Reports said southern Poland was the worst-affected area after the Vistula River burst its banks. Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the damage caused by the flooding could cost around EUR2.6 billion (USD3.2 billion).

At least 16 people have been killed in Poland and Prime Minister Tusk said the scale of the floods is “without precedent in the past 160 years”. Television footage showed stranded residents being rescued from rooftops by helicopter and officials said tens of thousands of people were affected by the floods in Poland. The flood waters have started to recede in southern areas of Poland, but they have spread north and more flooding has been recorded in the capital of Warsaw. Interior Minister Jerzy Miller said flood levels on the Vistula were “worse than expected”, raising the risk that flood defenses around Warsaw could be breached.


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The Vistula River is reported to have reached a 60 year high of 7.8 meters (25 feet) in the capital, but reports said flooding has only affected one non-residential area in the capital so far. However, officials say the Vistula remains dangerously high and Warsaw’s mayor has warned that around 100,000 residents risk having their houses flooded. Since accurate records began in 1945, the Vistula has only risen above 7.5 meters three times (1947, 1960 and 1962), according to reports. Meteorologists are predicting further heavy rain in northern Poland in the coming days and towns sitting along the Oder River in neighboring Germany are bracing themselves for possible flooding. In the eastern German state of Brandenburg, the environment ministry said it was preparing for heavy flooding and officials have declared flood warnings in the cities of Ratzdorf and Eisenhüttenstadt.

Reports said hundreds of properties were flooded in southern regions of Poland (including Slaskie, Podkarpackie, Opolskie, Swietokrizyskie and Malopolskie), prompting the evacuation of up to 23,000 people out of a total affected population of 100,000. Around 4,000 residents evacuated their homes in the southeastern town of Sandomierz after the Vistula burst its banks, and widespread flooding was also reported in the city of Krakow. It was reported that 500 people were evacuated in Krakow after the Vistula broke its banks on reaching a height of nearly 10 meters (33 feet), its highest level in 40 years. Reports said that flooding in southern Poland forced the short-term shutdown of some power stations and car manufacturers, including Fiat Poland. Meanwhile, in the southwest, flooding was reported in the city of Wroclaw after the Oder River broke its banks in two places.

Elsewhere, the village of Swiniary, near Plock, in central Poland also experienced serious flooding after the Vistula breached defences and forced around 4,000 people to evacuate their homes. Reports said as much as 800 cubic meters (28,000 cubic feet) of water per second flowed through a breach in a dike in Swiniary. Officials said the situation along the Oder River, where the highest level lingered for only 48 hours, is less critical than that on the Vistula, where the peak wave has taken more than four days to recede. According to AXCO, flood insurance penetration in Poland is around 40 percent. As of May 21, reports said insurers in Poland had received more than 40,000 flood-related claims.

Hungary, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic have also been hit badly by the floods. Hungarian Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai declared a state of emergency in northeastern regions after one person died and more than 2,000 people were evacuated from their homes. Officials said Borsod-Abauj-Zemplen County was particularly badly affected. The flooding disrupted rail services in many parts of Hungary, while several towns in the northeast were unreachable. Reports said record flood levels were measured at several rivers, including the Bodva, Hernad, Zagyva, Tarna, Ipoly and Sajo. The Hungarian Chamber of Agriculture said 150,000 hectares of land has been flooded, and the damage to agricultural production will run into the millions of euros.

The situation was also serious in northeastern regions of the Czech Republic, where the rising waters of the Becva River flooded several towns, including 90 percent of Troubky. A total of around 1,200 people were forced to evacuate their homes in the Czech Republic after more than 2,100 buildings were flooded, according to reports. Landslides were also reported in 20 places, mainly in northern Moravia. One person was killed in the Czech Republic and the Moravia-Silesia region declared a state of emergency. According to the Czech Insurers Association (CAP), the floods have triggered around 20,000 claims worth around CZK1.5 billion (EUR60 million) so far. Flooding was also reported in the neighboring Slovak Republic, where the government deployed up to 3,700 soldiers alongside emergency services in the worst affected areas in the east and northwest of the country.

Sources: Reuters News, BBC News, Associated Press, Agence France Presse, Europolitics, MTI - EcoNews, CIA - Daily News, PAP Market Insider, CTK Daily News, The Financial Times, Polish News Bulletin, Xinhua News Agency, The Wall Street Journal, Czech Insurers Association (CAP), Deutsche Welle, Spiegel Online International

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