Hungary Contains Danube Flooding as German Dikes Bursts on Elbe

By Zoltan Simon and Nicholas Brautlecht | June 10, 2013

Hungary was set to contain the Danube river from overflowing in Budapest while the economic toll grew in eastern Germany, where thousands of people have been forced to evacuate along the Elbe River.

Hungarian authorities are “in control” of the Danube with 20,000 people, including more than 7,000 soldiers, working to erect barriers, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said today on the banks of the river in the Hungarian capital. The Danube reached its record level yesterday and is now receding in Budapest.

“We are not surrendering a single dike, we’re defending everywhere,” Orban said. Parliament will today consider Orban’s request to extend a state of emergency.

The floods, triggered by heavy rainfall, are the worst in central Europe since 2002. Ten people were killed in the flooding in the Czech Republic and at least six have died in Germany while tens of thousands of people had to evacuate in the region. Rail, road and river traffic has been disrupted by the rising waters.

In Germany, more than 1,000 people were asked to leave their homes today after a levee broke on the banks of the Elbe near Stendal, 126 kilometers (78 miles) west of Berlin. In Saxony-Anhalt state, where Stendal is located, the number of evacuees is 44,000 and rising, Anke Reppin, spokeswoman of the state’s crisis center, said by phone today.

Deutsche Bahn canceled or delayed train services from Frankfurt to Berlin and from Hanover to Berlin after authorities closed a bridge over the Elbe near Stendal, the company said in a statement today.

Ships Halted

The Elbe is blocked to shipping traffic from Doemitz, around 120 kilometers southwest of Hamburg, to Dresden in the east of the country, according to data on the website of the German Water and Shipping Office WSV. The Rhine and Main rivers are open for shipping traffic while the Danube is still closed at Hofkirchen, close to the border with Austria and the Czech Republic, WSV said.

Suzuki Motor Corp. halted production at its factory in Esztergom, northern Hungary after the closure of a bridge spanning the Danube. Many of Suzuki’s 3,000 workers in Hungary live in Slovakia and commute across the bridge, company spokeswoman Viktoria Ruska said by phone today.

Budapest authorities closed off some roads and a subway station and asked commuters to leave their cars at home to reduce congestion. Flood-defense work is now shifting to the south where the Danube flows onwards toward Serbia, Orban said.

More Rain

In the Czech Republic, authorities maintained a state of emergency in six regions of the country after lifting it in Prague today. Water levels in the Vltava and Elbe rivers continued to recede. Weather forecasters warned of heavy rains today and overnight that may cause flash floods in parts of the country. Nearly 22,000 people have had to be evacuated so far, according to Prague’s fire department.

The Czech Insurers Association last week estimated the insured losses from floods to be at 7.5 billion koruna ($387 million). Damage in the Czech Republic may total 20 billion koruna, according to an estimate last week by CSOB analyst Jan Bures. In 2002, the insurers covered damages worth 34.7 billion koruna.

In Germany, the economic toll may exceed the 11 billion- euros ($14.6 billion) damage caused by the 2002 floods, Eric Schweitzer, the president of the German chamber of trade and industry DIHK, said on June 7.

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