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Europe: Troops Battle To Mend Damaged Dike

Hohenwutzen, Germany; 31 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Thousands of German soldiers are working furiously today to prevent a damaged dike on the River Oder (Odra) from bursting open and unleashing a catastrophic flood.

Correspondents report that helicopters are dumping huge sacks of sand at the base of the dike near Hohenwutzen to reinforce two areas where its foundations had cracked under two weeks of pressure from floodwaters in the river. Brandenburg's Interior Minister, Alwin Ziel, says it is a miracle the dike is still holding at all.

Should the dike break, local officials have said a wall of water several meters high would begin rushing into the fertile Oderbruch basin region, once the breadbasket of communist East Germany.

Meanwhile, German and Polish officials held talks today on ways of regulating the Oder (Odra) River, which runs along the border and has flooded large areas of both countries. Polish Finance Minister Marek Belka said after meeting Manfred Stolpe, premier of the neighboring German state of Brandenburg, that the project might be jointly financed by Poland, Germany and the European Union (EU).

In Romania, the death toll in a week of flooding and heavy rain rose to four today and officials are forecasting fresh difficulties with rain still falling in mountain areas.