Saturday 23 September 2017

Budapest in danger of flooding as heavy rains continue

The river Danube will peak at record high levels in Budapest today and dykes have been strengthened at critical points to protect the capital from flooding, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Sunday.

Tens of thousands have been forced to leave their homes and at least a dozen people have been killed in floods that have hit Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic over the last week.

The deluge reached Hungary on Friday but so far authorities, soldiers and thousands of volunteers have managed to defend the villages and towns along the river, piling hundreds of thousands of sandbags beside its dykes.

"The (floods) are approaching the heart of the country now, we can say that the next two days will be decisive," Orban told a news conference in the town of Esztergom, north of Budapest.

He said dykes have been raised and strengthened at the critical points in Budapest.

"In Budapest ... it is not simply the flood which is the problem ... but the complicated public works system through which all kinds of problems can arise," Orban said, referring to increased pressure on the sewage network from the swollen river.

The Danube is expected to peak at 8.95 metres (30 feet) in Budapest on Sunday evening, above the 8.6-metre record in 2006 floods. At least 1,200 people from 28 towns and villages have been forced to leave their homes in Hungary and 44 roads have been closed, national news agency MTI reported.

Orban said water levels were expected to recede only very slowly next week, and that he would ask parliament on Monday to approve an extension of the state of extreme danger that was announced last week.

Budapest's hilly Buda area, with its castle and monuments, and flat urban Pest are separated by the Danube, Europe's main waterway, which snakes through the centre of the city and thrusts south through the Balkans to the Black Sea.

Authorities have said that river defences designed to withstand floods would be high enough to protect the city. In the Czech Republic, floods swept through parts of the historic capital Prague this week.

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