Central Europe faces massive flood cleanup

WARSAW, Poland – Swollen rivers surged north Monday in central Europe after carving a swath of destruction across Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic. Hundreds of people had to be evacuated and one monastery suffered the worst flood damage in almost 800 years.

Days of flooding have killed at least 11 people in central Europe and damaged hundreds of homes and businesses.

The southwestern Polish town of Bogatynia, on the border with the Czech Republic, was one of the worst-hit areas. Video from the TVN24 news station showed roads that were torn up, rubble strewn all over and heavy damage to many homes. One house was left tilting badly.

A bridge in the town was also badly damaged, and soldiers had to set up a temporary crossing to bring in food and other supplies.

TVN24 reported that some vendors were taking advantage of food shortages and charging 20 zlotys ($6.60) for a loaf of bread, far above the usual price.

In Germany, the situation was most critical in the state of Saxony, along the Neisse River, which forms the border with Poland. Hundreds of residents had to be evacuated.

“We will have massive damage to the infrastructure, but of course also to private property,” Saxony governor Stanislaw Tillich said. He asked Polish authorities to explain how a retaining dam on their side broke down, making the situation worse, the German news agency DAPD reported.

A 775-year-old Cistercian monastery near the Neisse, St. Marienthal, was also flooded and the diocese said the damage will likely reach several million euros (dollars).

“Inside the church, the water was about two meters (6 feet) high,” a statement said, calling it the worst flooding since the monastery’s founding in 1234.

The Neisse was expected to top 23 feet (7 meters)_ nearly 15 feet (4.5 meters) above its normal level. Some 1,400 people in the region were evacuated over the weekend, and more than 500 have not yet been able to return to their houses, the German news agency DDP reported.

In Bad Muskau, an eastern German spa town on the border with Poland, the grounds of the Fuerst Pueckler Park — a UNESCO world heritage site — flooded, but damage to the castle and the town itself appeared limited, officials said.

South of Bad Muskau, a dike broke and flooded houses in two villages, but no one was hurt because 100 residents had been evacuated.

As the floods traveled further north, officials worried about waters reaching the Spree River, which runs through Berlin. There were no flood warnings yet for the German capital, however.

In the Czech Republic, waters receded Monday and cleanup efforts were under way, helped by more than 300 soldiers. Almost 1,000 Czech households were still without electricity and about 4,000 were without natural gas. Hundreds of houses and dozens of bridges have been destroyed or badly damaged.

Damage in the Czech Republic is estimated to reach almost 4 billion koruna ($215 million).

In northeastern Europe, Lithuania was hit over the weekend by a heavy storm that killed four people as it toppled trees, wrecked cars and smashed roofs.

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