17th Aug 2019

EU pledges aid to flood victims

  • Hungarian authorities are setting up defences to prevent the Danube river from spilling over into the capital, Budapest (Photo:

The European Commission says it is ready to unleash funds to help the thousands affected by one of the worst floods to hit Europe in a decade.

Six people are reported dead in the Czech Republic with another two dead in Austria and others missing.

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“I would like to reassure them, the communities affected and the political authorities that we, the European Family, stand ready to help where help is needed most,” said EU commissioner for regional policy Johannes Hahn in a statement on Monday (3 June).

The EU established the European Solidarity Fund in the aftermath of the 2002 floods to help set up emergency operations and rebuild damaged infrastructure.

The commission says flood-affected Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic can request access to the funds within ten weeks of the disaster.

The damage threshold for activating the aid is €1.79 billion for Austria, €872 million for the Czech Republic, and €3.67 billion for Germany.

Meanwhile, floods across central Europe are forcing thousands to evacuate as river water levels continue to rise.

More than two months of rainfall fell within 48 hours in some areas.

The Czech authorities announced Monday evening that they would open up a number of dams.

The extra flow is expected to increase the pressure on the River Vltava running through the capital Prague, reports the BBC.

The force of the river is ten times higher than normal, although officials says they do not expect it to reach levels seen in 2002.

Similar emergency disasters are noted elsewhere along the 2,800km Danube river.

Austria's Salzburg Times notes the Danube is expected to reach water levels of 11 metres in some parts on Tuesday.

The worst affected provinces are Salzburg, Tyrol, Upper and Lower Austria.

In the Hungarian capital Budapest, authorities are piling up defences to prevent the river from spilling over.

Workers in the Slovak capital Bratislava are also preparing for the worst. Police have shut down a number of roads and erected flood barriers along the Danube.

“We are getting bad news from Germany and Austria. We have to do all we can to protect ... the capital,” Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said, reports Reuters.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to visit the flood-affected zones in Germany on Tuesday.

Stretches of cargo shipping lanes of the Danube and the Rhine are closed due to high water levels with a number of factories, including Volkswagen in the eastern German state of Saxony, shut down.

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