Floodwaters are draining into northern Germany as authorities rush to raise dikes. The historic center of Dresden has managed to avoid inundation by waters that have swamped other riverside cities across central Europe.
Thousands of people in northeastern Germany were working Thursday to fill sandbags as floodwaters in the Elbe river basin drain towards the North Sea.
Authorities in the state of Lower Saxony expect water levels along the lower Elbe to rise until the weekend.
In the town of Lauenburg, just southwest of Hamburg, the German broadcaster n-tv news reported that 150 houses along the river Elbe had been evacuated.
Throughout the affected regions some 85,000 firefighters, as well as aid workers and troops, are assisting with relief efforts. Thousands of volunteers have also gathered, many organized through social media. So far, the flooding has claimed five lives in Germany.
The Elbe river crested Thursday in Dresden, hitting 8.76 meters (28 feet, 9 inches) around midday, well above its regular level of two meters.
Dresden's historic center, which includes its famous opera, cathedral and Zwinger palace, was spared because of flood barriers prepared after Dresden was inundated during massive floods in 2002.
However, on Dresden's outskirts, at Laubegast (pictured above), thousands of homes have been inundated.
Of particular worry is the eastern German chemicals industry center of Bitterfeld-Wolfen in Saxony-Anhalt.
Two lakes, one higher than the other, are dangerously close to Bitterfeld and efforts to blow a hole in one of the lake dikes outside the city have been unsuccessful. Authorities have warned that a breach in the lake's defenses could cause a "mini-tsunami."
Chancellor Angela Merkel headed to Bitterfeld Thursday in her second trip to flood-affected regions. While in Bavaria on Tuesday she pledged 100 million euros ($130 million) in immediate flood relief, with Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble saying Thursday more money would follow.
Some 30,000 residents in the university city of Halle nearby have been ordered to evacuate as the Saale tributary reached its highest level in 400 years.
Danube swamps Deggendorf
In the Bavarian city of Deggendorf scores of homes were underwater after a third levee along the river Danube broke on Thursday. Authorities warned that the situation could worsen because a dam was still in danger of bursting.
"It's indescribably bad," Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer said after visiting the Deggendorf area. "It's beyond comparison."
Far downriver in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava, the Danube was continuing to rise from the record levels reached Wednesday, but authorities said protective barriers were holding. Disaster preparations are being made in Hungary, where waters are expected to peak in coming days.
Austrian emergency services said the worst of the flooding that claimed two lives in Austria was over.
Central Europe recovering
In the Czech Republic, rescue workers in upper tributaries of the Elbe were supplying isolated families who lack drinking water, power or gas. At least eight Czech residents have died during five days of flooding.
Firefighters said some 700 Czech villages, towns and cities have been hit by the flooding, forcing some 20,500 people to be evacuated.
dr/ipj (AP, AFP, dpa, epd)
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