Four dead in Central Europe floods

AFP-JIJI

Four people have died and at least eight were missing Sunday as torrential rain lashed Central Europe, forcing hundreds to evacuate their homes after floods and landslides.

Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic sent in army units to help with rescue efforts after rains reached record levels in some areas, while hundreds of roads have been closed and rail services cut.

The banks of the mighty Danube River burst in one area in Germany, and dozens of towns were put on flood alert across a large swath of Central Europe.

In Austria, one person was killed and two were reported missing following landslides triggered by heavy rain that forced several hundred people from their homes, local authorities said.

Two people were also missing in neighboring Germany following a 48-hour downpour that hit record levels in parts of the south and east, according to the DPA news agency.

In the Czech Republic, the government declared a state of emergency and released 300 million korunas ($15 million) in disaster funds.

Barriers have been erected along the banks of the Vltava River in Prague to prevent it from flooding, and the iconic Charles Bridge was closed.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged federal government support for the affected areas, while the army was sent in to help in some eastern towns as water levels rose. The southern German town of Passau on the Austrian border was partly flooded when the Danube burst its banks.

Farther downstream, Austrian towns such as Linz and Melk were bracing for the worst, with some local authorities fearing a repeat of the record floods in 2002 that caused damage of up to €7.5 billion ($9.8 billion) nationwide.

Rail services between the southern German city of Munich and Salzburg in Austria were brought to a halt. Rail links were suspended due to landslides in many parts of Salzburg and Tyrol, Austrian Rail said, while a section of the highway to Switzerland was closed because of flooding, as were smaller roads throughout the country.