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Central Europe at record flood level

United Press International - April 11, 2000 09:47

BUDAPEST, Hungary, April 11 (UPI) - Water-metering posts across parts of Central Europe report record 100-year-levels Tuesday as Hungarian troops and civilians struggle to shore-up flood defenses.

Several thousand people worked through the night in Hungary to strengthen flood defenses, but rivers have burst their banks in many parts of the country, the government said.

Kalman Katona, Hungary's flood coordinator, said his country is experiencing "terrible and continuing" flooding conditions. At least 11 people were killed by the flooding in Romania, Hungary and Serbia. Several hundred have been forced to leave their homes, Katona said.

Hungary and Serbia have declared a state of emergency to combat the torrential rains that have resulted in thousands of acres of farmland going under water. In Bucharest, Romania, officials broadcast over state radio that more rainfall and flooding were expected.

In Romania, the government said nine people were killed and that much of the farmland in the western part of the country was damaged by the flooding. Romanian television said that some 300 towns and villages in 10 different regions had been hit by the storms, with thousands of acres submerged. The interior ministry said it reckoned the cost of the damage would exceed $75 million.

Meanwhile, Hungarian police officials said the flooding had claimed three lives and that more deaths and flooding damage was expected.

"This is the flood of the century," said Albert Siku, a water management engineer in Tokaj, northern Hungary, "Water levels already surpassed the century-old record ... and are rising one centimeter an hour."

Hungary's second largest river, the Tisza, reportedly reached 906 centimeters in Tokaj -- exceeding by 12 centimeters the all-time record set last year.

Hungarian television reported that more than 8,200 persons, including some 1,000 soldiers, were working on shoring-up river bank protection. The government, however, wants an additional 16,000 people.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said some $147 million in flood protection assistance has been approved. He also told parliament that the flood conditions will hit a peak April 21, according to weather forecasters and water management specialists.

Hungary spent $1.9 million last year, building dikes for housing restoration after record flooding.

In northern Serbia, thousands of farmland acres are reported under water.

The Presents of God ministry