Dramatic scenes of rescue unfolded over parts of Bavaria in southern Germany on Wednesday as levees along the famed Danube and lesser-known Isar rivers broke, sending millions of gallons of water coursing through villages. Residents of the small German village of Deggendorf were sent scrambling to their roofs in order to await rescue by helicopter as the waters rushed through the town’s streets.
Southern Bavaria is not alone in the danger posed by the high river levels. People in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria as well as the German state of Saxony have been evacuated due to the surge in the surrounding rivers. In all, sixteen people have been killed by the floods; another four are reported missing in the Czech Republic.
An unusually wet spring along with steady rains over the past weekend combined to form a scenario which has led to rising river levels in several of Europe’s major rivers. The Elbe and the Vltava rivers of the Czech Republic have also been swollen by the recent rains. The Czech capital of Prague has suffered from so much flooding that, in addition to massive evacuations, the sewage treatment system has been shut down and the city’s waste stream is now being diverted into the Vltava.
In all, it has been estimated that around 25,000 Germans and nearly 19,000 Czechs have been evacuated thanks to the worst flooding the region has seen since 2002. However, it was not just the people who needed to be moved to safety; parts of the zoo in Prague were inundated with flood waters, causing many of the animals to be moved to safer areas.
After seeing to the human population directly affected by the flooding, most concern was turned to several large chemical companies that had to be shut down and evacuated as the river levels continued to rise. The employees were sent home and the chemicals removed in order to ensure safety for the plants as well as the surrounding communities.
Now, attention turns to cleaning up the mess left in the wake of the floods. Passau, a city of 50,000 in Lower Bavaria, sits on the confluence of the Danube, the Inn and the Ilz rivers. Flood waters were slowly receding from the hard-hit city, leaving large amounts of debris in the wake of the floods. In Prague, where the Vlatava was slowly beginning to recede, workers began moving in heavy equipment to deal with the excess mud and debris left behind by the floods.
More rain is forecast for the upcoming weekend over much of the region, extending concerns that the flooding may continue.