German villages swamped

SWOLLEN BY a week of uninterrupted downpour, the Rhine and its tributaries burst their banks, claiming at least six lives and inundating historic towns in western Germany.

Although the rain let up yesterday, water levels reached new heights as the waves moved downstream, triggering flood alerts in Koblenz, Bonn and Cologne, and aggravating the plight of those living along the Main and the Mosel.

At the confluence of the Main and the Tauber, near Frankfurt, about 3,000 people were forced to leave their homes when the picturesque town of Wertheim was flooded. Wertheim's market square stood under two feet of water.

In Frankfurt itself, emergency workers were piling up 30,000 sandbags. The high waters of the Mosel were racing yesterday towards Koblenz where the river meets the Rhine.

The Sachsbach river near Kaiserslautern yesterday yielded the body of a boy, four, who vanished on Sunday. In Wolfenbuttel, northern Germany, dogs were trying to find two five-year-old boys last seen playing at the edge of the Ilse river. Another two children and a 32-year-old boatman were missing.