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Disasters

Merkel pledges immediate support as floods travel north

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised 'unbureaucratic' aid to Passau and other flood-hit areas. While water levels are slowly falling in the south, flooding is getting worse further north.

Flood-hit areas in the south and south-east of Germany saw some let-up in the relentless rain and record-high water levels that forced the emergency services to mobilize last Friday.

The Bavarian city of Passau, one of the worst hit areas where three rivers converge, saw water levels of 12.89 meters (42.29 feet) on the Danube river- the worst in roughly 500 years. Since Monday evening, those levels have been falling by several centimeters an hour.

Merkel pledged fast aid to the affected regions, as she was given a helicopter tour over the flooded areas in and around Passau.

"The federal government yesterday readied an initial fund of 100 million euros ($130.7 million)," Merkel said in Passau on Tuesday evening, saying the money was for the states of Bavaria, Saxony and Thuringia. The three states combined would match this sum, the chancellor said. "When the water levels recede, then we will convene again to discuss how to go forward."

Merkel promises help for flood-hit Passau

She praised the emergency services and armed forces for their efforts. She said she was surprised by the extent of the floods. "We thought the situation in 2002 was exorbitant," she said, referring to the last devastating floods in Germany 11 years ago. Merkel is set to travel to Saxony and Thuringia next.

Travelling north

Meanwhile, the floods are getting worse further north. In Saxony, the river Elbe is rising to dangerous levels, as water comes pouring in from the Czech Republic, which has also been severely affected.

In Meissen, famous the world over for its bone china, the city center has already been flooded. Nearby Dresden has shut down one of its main bridges.

Neighboring Saxony-Anhalt is still bracing for the worst of the flooding. Authorities in the state capital Magdeburg have declared a state of emergency, warning that the Elbe, normally at two meters, is expected to rise to almost seven meters.

Prague's Old Town under threat

The government of the neighboring Czech Republic had declared a state of emergency across much of the country on Monday. In Prague, the fire brigade erected flood barriers to try to protect the Old Town from the swollen Vltava River, which flows through the Czech capital. Meteorologists said water levels would drop across the country, but move on to parts of Slovakia, Hungary and Germany.

Heavy rainfall has also caused flooding in low-lying regions of Austria - as well as landslides on some mountains.

At least 11 people have died in the flooding across Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic.

The European Commission noted that help would be available to the victims of the current flooding through the European Solidarity Fund, which it set up after the last major floods to hit the region in 2002.

msh, ng/ccp (dpa, AFP)

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