Warsaw: Rescue workers sought to clear flood-borne debris including damaged cars and evacuate victims after heavy rains across central Europe killed at least nine people over the weekend.
Heavy downpours on Saturday caused rivers to overflow their banks and a dam to burst, submerging towns in the southwest corner of Poland and killing at least three people, Polish officials said on Sunday.
One woman drowned in the town of Bogatynia in Poland’s extreme southwest corner on Saturday. The body of another woman and a 55-year-old rescuer swept away by a dam burst on Saturday were found on Sunday, fire brigade spokesman Pawel Fratczak told Reuters by telephone.
Flood damage and deaths were also reported in neighbouring Germany and the Czech Republic, with six deaths.
“We had no warning. In less than an hour our town was totally inundated up to the first floor, many houses collapsed and we were cut off from the world,” the mayor of Bogatynia, Andrzej Grzmielewicz told news channel TVN24.
“We need amphibious vehicles and helicopters to help evacuate at least 2,000 flood victims,” he added, and called on people from higher-lying areas to donate blankets and food for the homeless.
The army has since moved in with heavy engineering equipment and aircraft to evacuate flood victims and clear debris including damaged cars blocking the town’s narrow streets.
The rupture of a dam on a reservoir in nearby Niedow was responsible for the speed of the water surge, and more rain could lead to major chaos, interior minister Jerzy Miller warned.
“In view of the dam burst, more heavy rains would mean that we would be entirely unable to control the situation,” he said.
For the time being weather forecasters in Poland do not foresee further heavy downpours.
The weekend deluge followed major spring and summer flooding across Poland which caused widespread property damage and claimed some two dozen lives.
In Germany, authorities at the weekend evacuated some 1,400 people around the town of Goerlitz, on the border with Poland, where they expected the flooding level to rise further after already topping 7 metres (23 feet).
Television footage showed water gushing along a main road in Goerlitz. Elsewhere in eastern Germany, flooding levels began to ease. On Saturday, three people drowned in flooding in Neukirchen, near the Czech border.
In the Czech Republic, the news agency CTK reported three people had been killed by floods in the north of the country.
Extra rescue personnel and soldiers were called in to help with evacuation from some of the worst affected towns, using helicopters to reach villages cut off by the swollen rivers.
Storms and high winds left several regions in eastern Slovakia with no electricity on Saturday, but no major damage, casualties or injuries were reported.