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Eastern Europe: Fight Against Rising Floodwaters Continues

Bad Freienwalde, Germany; 29 July 1997 (RFE/RL) -- German Chancellor Helmut Kohl visited flood-threatened areas of eastern Germany again today and assured residents that no area will be sacrificed to save another.

Residents of villages around Ziltendorf, which was inundated last week when a dike broke on the swollen river Oder, have accused officials of allowing floodwaters to overwhelm their homes to save the main city of Frankfurt an der Oder.

But Kohl said the army will defend every threatened dike. He broke off a vacation to visit Bad Freienwalde and get an update on the flood situation from local officials. The town lies north of a low-lying plain where thousands are threatened if dikes burst.

Kohl said flood damage will be considerable and called for better ways of predicting future flood levels and of providing fast, bureaucracy-free government aid. He also praised the work of hundreds of soldiers and volunteers who, in a spectacular overnight operation, scrambled to repair a damaged section of dike and prevent a total collapse.

The floodwaters now working their way toward the Baltic Sea earlier devastated sections of Poland and the Czech Republic, leaving more than 100 dead and tens of thousands homeless.

Ukraine also is being hit by floods. Officials in Kyiv says dozens of villages in the western region of Lviv were inundated and 14 bridges destroyed after heavy rains. Hundreds of people have been evacuated. Further heavy rain is forecast.