German, Hungarian Towns Battle Floods; Elbe River Yet to Crest

Cities and towns along the Elbe in Germany and Hungary are preparing for the river to crest at record levels amid the worst flood in the region in more than 10 years.

The full force of the deluge is expected to hit the German town of Magdeburg in Saxony-Anhalt and Budapest in the coming days after water subsided in parts of Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, according to forecasters from ELWIS, the country’s information portal for waterways.

Emergency workers and volunteers joined as many as 19,000 soldiers today in an attempt to limit damage from the flooding, the worst on record in some parts of Germany.

The peak on the Elbe moved from Dresden in Saxony toward Magdeburg in Saxony-Anhalt, where the inflow of the Saale river, swollen to record levels, means the city faces water marks that may top 2002 flood levels by half a meter (20 inches), according to the state’s flood protection office. Rain forecast during the weekend may prolong the critical situation in many areas.

The Danube, which already flooded the German towns of Passau and Deggendorf, is expected to crest at a record level in Budapest on June 10, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said at a press briefing today.

The losses insurers face from the flooding may be lower than those resulting from a similar deluge in 2002 even as the toll on local economies looms larger. Insured losses may reach 2 billion euros ($2.65 billion) to 3 billion euros, Michael Klien, an analyst for Nomura Europe Finance NV in London said yesterday, compared with 3.4 billion euros in 2002.

2002 ‘Parallels’

“Many people are making parallels to 2002,” said Clement Booth, a board member at Allianz SE, in a statement yesterday on the Munich-based company’s website. “However, we are not seeing the same extent of damage yet.”

That may be little consolation for the people of Budapest and 1,200 year-old Magdeburg, where the Elbe reached a record 7.34 meters (24 feet) at 10 a.m.

“Our flood protection has been designed to resist 6.80 meters, not 7.40 meters,” Lutz Truemper, the major of Magdeburg said today in a televised press conference.

The German army has deployed soliders and is using helicopters to ferry equipment to areas where dikes are especially endangered, it said on its website today.

“This is a very long peak that is applying constant pressure to the dikes, that’s what makes it so dangerous,” Benno Droege, a spokesman for the Federal Institute of Hydrology BAFG, said on the Elbe situation, in a phone interview. “In many regions in Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony, we will certainly see new record highs, possibly tens of inches above the floods from 2002 or 1888 as the flood moves north.” Dikes in Passau and Deggendorf are still at risk of collapsing.

Droege said the peak may not reach areas near the mouth of the river at the North Sea before June 12. The Rhine river has re-opened for shipping after being closed for much of the last week, he said.

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