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Germany

Flooding in Germany eases but many still unable to return home

Water levels have begun to level off around the flooded River Elbe but many people are unable to return home. Emergency workers successfully sank two barges to plug a breach in a dike, and are planning to sink a third.

The situation has slightly eased in the areas affected by the flooding but levels remain high. Thelevel in Wittenberg reached 6.88 meters (22.6 feet) on Sunday afternoon, down from itspeak a week ago of 7.85 meters. Levels of the rivers in Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania,Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein are gradually declining.

Two barges were sunk at Fischbeck in the state of Saxony-Anhalt on Saturday night to seal a breach in the dike. Water flowing through the broken barrier had already flooded 200 square kilometers (80 square miles) of land by the river in the last week. Workers were planning to sink a third barge later on Sunday.

In Breitenhagen in Saxon-Anhalt, two holes were blasted in the Saale-dike over the weekend allowing flood waters to flow back into the river.

In Brandenburg, the situation has eased slightly according to the Interior Ministry.

Meanwhile, discussions on how to finance the repair and reconstruction works has continued. Following Thursday's decision to share the costs of the estimated 8 billion euro ($10.7 billion) aid package between federal and state governments, various ministers have spoken out.

In an interview with the "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper, Federal Environment Minister Peter Altmaier suggested an increase in the solidarity surcharge to finance the flood aid rather than taking on more debt, thus, as he suggested, endangering "the sustainability of sound public finances."

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble warned against tax increases to fund flood damage repairs, saying the economy was too fragile.

jm/dr (dpa, AFP)