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Danube at highest level in a century after heavy rain

The Danube rose to its highest level in over a century on Saturday, but a breached dam in Romania eased pressure downstream on towns and villages struggling to hold back the floods, officials said.

  • Reuters
  • Published: 00:00 April 16, 2006
  • Gulf News

Bucharest: The Danube rose to its highest level in over a century on Saturday, but a breached dam in Romania eased pressure downstream 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 low-lying farmland and ports.

Waters rose to an 111-year high in the Romanian town of Bazias, near its border with Serbia, flooding around 5,000 hectares of farmland on the northern bank.

The river also flooded the small port of Bechet, while soldiers and civil defence workers scrambled to reinforce dykes and build sandbag barriers on both sides of the river.

"Authorities will try to shore up a dam which defends the Cozia village where swollen waters destroyed nine houses," said Ion Plesu, chief of the civil defence in Mehedinti county.

Romania's government started controlled flooding to divert water, flowing near a record 15,800 cubic metres per second, away from low-lying villages and were helped by the collapse of a dam in southwestern Romania which flooded farmland.

"The water flow has fallen by 200 cubic metres per second. This is a success," Beatrice Popescu, of the environment ministry in charge of operations, said.

Romania plans to submerge, in all, about 90,000 hectares of fertile soil on a 400-km stretch on the Danube's northern bank, a major area for wheat and maize farming.

The region is still recovering from devastating floods last summer, which killed scores of people and caused hundreds of millions of euros in damage to farmland and infrastructure.

This time, floods have submerged hundreds of houses across the Balkans, displacing thousands of people and leaving tens of thousands more at risk.

The Danube is expected to continue rising until next week, but on the Bulgarian side, water levels stabilised on Saturday, giving reprise to towns where the river had overcome the first lines of flood defences in recent days.

In the Bulgarian port city of Lom, around 120 soldiers came to reinforce civil defence workers, but the town's mayor said water levels were unchanged at a record high 9.45 metres.

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