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Danube's Waters Creep Higher

Romania is planning to submerge 200,000 acres to divert water from some villages. A dam breach eases pressure on towns battling floods.

April 16, 2006|From Reuters

BUCHAREST, Romania — The Danube rose to its highest level in more than a century Saturday, but the breaching of a dam in Romania eased pressure on towns and villages struggling to hold back the floods, officials said.

Rivers fed by heavy rain and melting snow crept higher across the Balkans for the fourth straight day, driving people from their homes and swamping farmland and ports.

Waters rose to an 111-year high in the Romanian town of Bazias, near the Serbian border, flooding about 12,355 acres of farmland on the Danube's northern bank.

The river also flooded the small port of Bechetu, as soldiers and civil defense workers scrambled to reinforce dikes and build sandbag barriers on both sides of the river.

Romania's government started controlled flooding to divert water away from some villages and was helped by the collapse of a dam in the southwest, which inundated farmland.

In all, Romania plans to submerge more than 200,000 acres of fertile soil on a 250-mile stretch of the Danube's northern bank, a major area for wheat and maize farming.

The Balkans are still recovering from devastating floods last summer, which killed scores of people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of damage to farmland and infrastructure.

This time, floods have submerged hundreds of houses, leaving thousands homeless.

In the Bulgarian port city of Lom, 120 soldiers came to reinforce civil defense workers, but water levels were unchanged at a record 29 feet.

In Serbia, the floods claimed their first victim Friday in the village of Stari Kostolac, where water reached the roofs of 200 houses. The Danube's level dropped in the city of Novi Sad, but authorities braced downstream in Belgrade for an east-moving flood wave that had originated in Central Europe.

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