Floods threaten Auschwitz archives

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The Independent Online

Flooding in southern Poland has killed at least five people, and officials yesterday closed the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial site to protect its Holocaust archives and artifacts.

Heavy rains that began in central Europe last weekend are also causing flooding in areas of Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, with rivers bursting their banks and inundating low-lying homes and roads, and cutting off villages.

Thousands of people have been evacuated, and electricity has been knocked out in some areas. Rail travel was also paralysed, rendering some areas unreachable.

Hungary's Prime Minister, Gordon Bajnai, declared a state of emergency in the north-eastern Borsod-Abauj-Zemplen county, allowing those suffering financial losses to claim compensation.

In Poland, nearly 2,000 people were evacuated from their homes and the flooding claimed two more victims yesterday, including a firefighter involved in rescue efforts. Three people were reported dead on Monday. In Krakow, a major bridge was closed as the Vistula River nearly reached it.

At Auschwitz-Birkenau, the former Nazi death camp that draws about a million visitors a year, authorities carried historical documents and some artifacts, including brushes and bowls that belonged to victims, to the upper floors of old barracks that are used to house exhibits. Waters were rising in two nearby rivers, the Vistula and the Sola.