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Czech Republic/Central Europe: Fight Against Rising Rivers Continues

Berlin/Warsaw/Prague, 22 July 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Thousands of soldiers and rescue workers continue to strengthen dams and river embankments in parts of Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic today. The Interior Ministry in the German state of Brandenburg describes the situation along the river, which also marks the border with Poland, as "very tense."

Water levels along the Oder River are expected to rise by another 60 centimeters today after heavy rains over the past few days.

This afternoon, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl is due to visit the flood zone along the Oder, where some 200,000 people in Brandenburg state are affected by the flooding. An emergency services spokesman, Matthias Tiedt, said today floodwaters have partially undermined a dike near Eisenhuettenstadt and threaten to inundate an electricity transformer station that serves 50,000 inhabitants.

Twelve southern and western Polish districts remain on high alert. Floodwaters continue to affect communities in the southwestern districts of Jelenia Gora and Legnica and in the northwest at Gozdowice. In the Czech Republic, meanwhile, the northeastern cities of Olomouc and Ostrava also remain on emergency footing as the waters of the Morava river continue to rise.

The death toll has surpassed 100 in more than two weeks of Central Europe's worst floods in more than a century: with 52 dead in Poland, 48 in the Czech Republic and two in Austria. Damages are expected run into the thousands of millions of dollars.

A spokesman for the German reinsurance company Munich Re said in London yesterday the insured flood damage in the Czech Republic is likely to be $690 million. The Czech insurance company says it will will pay out about $147 million in flood insurance claims to some 100,000 individuals and 6,000 firms.

Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus said on television last night the Czech government has not given up its attempt to balance the budget despite the loss of tax revenue resulting from the floods.