Europeans shovel mud from homes, Switzerland evacuates residents from capital
REUTHE, Austria – Flood victims waded into their homes Wednesday to shovel out mud and cleanup crews cleared the debris from streets after heavy rains deluged central and southern Europe.More than 250 residents from a submerged section of Bern, the Swiss capital, were evacuated by helicopter, and Romanian officials said seven people drowned overnight when waters surged into their homes.The storms have killed 34 people across Europe this week, authorities said Wednesday, warning the number could climb as the missing are accounted for. Worst hit was Romania, with 25 dead and thousands of homes inundated. Austria, Bulgaria and Switzerland reported a total of nine dead.In Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder promised assistance for those affected by flooding in Bavaria, while authorities prepared for rising river levels downstream from the Alps. Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel also promised financial support for victims in his country.Military helicopters airlifted tourists out of some of the hardest-hit areas in Austria, where streets had crumbled beside the swollen rivers. Parts of the western Austrian province of Vorarlberg remained cut off by closed roads, although sunny skies Wednesday and predictions of a break from the torrential downpour raised spirits.”The situation is a bit better,” said Doris Ita, the head of Austria’s flood emergency department.Hundreds of people were evacuated Tuesday following storms that sent muddy brown water surging along riverbanks in many regions, causing millions of dollars in damage.Hundreds in Austria’s alpine valleys found themselves deluged with mud. Train conductor Ernst Cavegn, 44, took a hammer and broke apart a waterlogged sofa before tossing it from a second-story window of his home, where water levels had risen as much as 15 feet.”I grew up in this house. My parents built it when I was 3 years old, and now everything is destroyed,” he said. “My wife is in shock. She won’t say a word.”The mayor of Reuthe, a community of 630, said the leaders of dozens of other nearby villages had volunteered to help. Among his biggest problems were people coming to examine the damage – particularly a part of the village that had been transformed into a lake.In the town of Worgl, 150 people were rescued after being stranded at a shopping mall 40 miles northeast of Innsbruck, state television ORF reported. The group spent the night at the center before Austria’s military evacuated them by boat.Across the border in southern Germany, rail lines were swamped and a highway was closed. Although floodwaters receded slightly Wednesday, authorities were watching rising water levels farther downstream on the Danube, Isar and Inn rivers.The Danube spilled over its banks slightly in Linz, in upper Austria, ORF reported. Ita said the river’s level was rising slowly, but that it was not expected to cause any severe flooding.In central Switzerland, water levels remained high. A number of towns still were half-submerged in water. The town of Engelberg was still isolated from the rest of Switzerland after its only road out was washed away by a landslide Tuesday.”It is a huge catastrophe,” Walter Dietrich, a government official in the popular tourist destination of Interlaken, told the daily Basler Zeitung.Vail – Colorado
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