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Death Toll at 86 in East Europe Rains; Floods Reach Germany

July 19, 1997|From Times Wire Services

WROCLAW, Poland — Deadly rain that has swollen rivers and swallowed people and villages whole in the past two weeks is still falling in southern Poland and the neighboring Czech Republic, and the devastation spread to Germany on Friday as streets and cellars in towns on the Polish border were flooded.

The storms have killed at least 86 people in 10 days and have devastated agriculture and manufacturing in Poland and the Czech Republic. Forecasters predicted that the rains will continue through the weekend.

On what in Poland was proclaimed a day of national mourning for the dozens of flood victims, more heavy rain pelted Wroclaw's watery streets, already lined with sandbags piled up to the windowsills.

Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated in Poland and the Czech Republic, and factories, roads, farmland and animal stocks appear to have suffered massive damage.

Meanwhile, in adjacent Germany the Oder River spilled over its banks into the center of Frankfurt an der Oder, 55 miles east of Berlin, and other towns on the Polish border. A 100-mile dike, waterlogged but reinforced overnight by sandbags, prevented more serious flooding.

"Nature has done us in," said Frankfurt an der Oder resident Janusz Siennack.

The rains began just before Poland and the Czech Republic, formerly Communist Bloc countries, were invited to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization last week. The storms largely dampened any notion of grand celebrations and overshadowed President Clinton's visit to Warsaw on July 10.

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