Europe mops up as floods recede

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The Independent Online
ARNHEM (AFP) - Authorities across north-west Europe began mopping up operations yesterday as floodwaters receded, but many of the thousands of people evacuated over Christmas were still unable to go home. Many churches were still surrounded by water and were unable to hold services.

The Rhine reached its highest level this century in Arnhem early yesterday, breaking a record set in 1926 by 12cm (nearly 5in), authorities in Gelderland, in the eastern Netherlands, said.

But floodwaters receded in the historic German city of Cologne, leaving behind streets choked with mud. The river, which hit a record 10.63m (35ft) on Christmas night, returned to 9.48m yesterday and was falling at a rate of 3cm an hour, the local flood crisis centre said.

Authorities had begun cleaning up at Koblenz, where the Moselle meets the Rhine, although some parts of the town were still underwater.

Dutch authorities said the Rhine and its tributaries had stopped rising by midday yesterday and no new evacuations had been necessary since Saturday afternoon in the Rhine basin. About 13,000 people had to leave their homes in the past week.

But communities downstream were bracing themselves for the arrival of the floodwaters, particularly on the banks of the mouth of the Ijseel, the tributary which flows into Ijsselmeer between two polders.

In Spain, at least one person was killed when a house collapsed because of a landslip following heavy rain in Collado-Escobal, near Ovideo, in the north-west.