Rail closures as tens of thousands across Germany and Hungary left homeless by floods swelling Elbe and Danube rivers

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

One of the Germany's main railway routes closed

The swollen River Elbe has breached another levee on its relentless march towards the North Sea, forcing Germany to evacuate 10 villages and close one of the country's main railway routes.

As the surge from the Elbe pushed into rural eastern Germany, there was some relief further upstream as the river slipped back from record levels in Magdeburg, the capital of Saxony-Anhalt state.

To the south, the Danube hit a record high on Sunday evening in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, then began to ease back. The city escaped significant damage, and Prime Minister Viktor Orban said soldiers and rescue workers would shift their focus further south.

Weeks of heavy rain this spring have made the Elbe, the Danube and other rivers such as the Vltava and the Saale overflow, causing extensive damage in central and southern Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. At least 21 flood-related deaths have been reported.

Germany's national railway had to close a bridge near Fischbeck on the line from Berlin to Cologne, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.

Tens of thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes across Germany and Hungary on Sunday as further dramatic rises in the levels of the swollen Elbe and Danube rivers continued to cause some of the most devastating floods ever experienced in Central Europe.

In the east German city of Magdeburg, flood waters from the Elbe rose 80cm higher than during 2002’s so-called “flood of the century”. Some 23,000 residents were forced to flee their homes as soldiers, rescue workers and volunteers battled furiously to shore up dykes.

City officials said an entire district of Magdeburg faced the possibility being submerged and there were fears that an electricity-supply station would be flooded, shutting off power supplies. “You just cannot imagine what people are having to deal with,” said the German President Joachim Gauck after touring flood-hit towns.

The flooding northwards along the Elbe is expected to continue and possibly even worsen this week as waters from the river’s swollen tributaries flow into the main river south of Magdeburg and head north-west.

In southern Germany thousands of residents were struggling with a massive clean-up operation following devastating Danube floods which hit parts of Bavaria last week. Further heavy rain is forecast for southern Germany and further flooding in the region could not be ruled out.

So far at least 15 people have died in Central Europe since the flooding began a week ago. In Germany, 70,000 firemen, 11,000 soldiers and tens of thousands of volunteer rescue workers are battling the rising waters. 

On Sunday the Elbe cities of Wittenberge and Lauenburg were also hit by severe flooding and officials said they  expected water levels would remain high for days. By contrast 10,000 residents evacuated from the town of Bitterfeld, further south, were being allowed to return home yesterday as the floodwaters receded.

German police said the problems caused by the floods were exacerbated by letters circulated early on Sunday by a suspected left-wing group, threatening to damage sections of already weakened river dykes in order to create chaos.

The letters signed by a group calling itself the “anti-German, anti-fascist flood brigade” threatened to strike at  dykes in order to “harm people across Germany”. Police said they had stepped up helicopter surveillance and road patrols in response.

In Hungary, thousands of volunteers, rescue workers and even convicts were reinforcing dykes along a 470-mile stretch of the swollen Danube yesterday. Some 2,000 residents were evacuated from the village of Gyorujfalu in western Hungary because a dyke threatened to burst.

Small towns and villages have already been cut off and in Budapest the Danube was expected to reach record levels early today. Istvan Tarlos, the city’s mayor, said that in the worst case up to 55,000 people would need to be evacuated.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future