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Europe Battles Floods; Toll Rises

August 20, 2002|From Times Wire Services

DESSAU, Germany — Elbe River flood waters overwhelmed a dike and swamped part of this eastern German city Monday, forcing more evacuations as Europe wrestled with the aftermath of violent storms.

German authorities reported three more deaths Monday, increasing the Europe-wide toll to 109. European leaders also grappled with how to pay for damage put at as much as $20 billion.

Germany rescinded a planned $6.8-billion tax cut, and the Czech Republic's Defense Ministry said it would scrap a $2-billion plan to buy 24 fighter jets.

In the Czech capital, Prague, officials were inspecting buildings for flood damage after three collapsed in recent days. But they hoped to reopen the 14th century Charles Bridge today.

Thousands of German soldiers and emergency workers shored up flood barriers as the Elbe rolled northward after forcing 80,000 people from their homes.

Military helicopters ferried sandbags to a dike being built to protect a key highway linking Berlin and Munich.

Floods have wiped out or severely damaged scores of roads, rail lines, bridges, stores and private homes in Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

In Prague, authorities examined structures damaged by flooding from the Vltava River. Pumps were installed to drain water from a cemetery where 10,000 Holocaust victims are buried at the site of a former Nazi concentration camp, Theresienstadt.

Rescue workers in Germany, meanwhile, captured a sea lion that escaped from the Prague Zoo during the flooding and swam 150 miles, zoo spokesman Vit Kahle said. Gaston, a 12-year-old male, is to be returned home today.

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