August 27, 2005

Residents return as Europe’s flood waters recede

By Ruben Sprich

BERNE (Reuters) - Thousands of volunteers toiled alongside
rescue workers on Saturday to clear walls of debris left by the
downpours from Berne to Bucharest, which have caused more than
$1.0 billion of damage in Switzerland alone.

Hundreds of people returned to their flood damaged homes in
Switzerland and other parts of central Europe and the Balkans
where the torrential rain has killed more than 40 people in the
past week.

In the Swiss capital, Berne, police said most of the 1,100
residents of the old quarter, evacuated for fear the
centuries-old buildings could collapse, were being allowed
back, although water and electricity supplies had not been

"The flood risk has receded, but there is an awful lot of
clearing up to do," said Berne police spokesman Franz Maerki.

In southern Germany, hastily constructed dams on the river
Danube prevented serious flood damage in the city of
Regensburg, but parts of the old center of Passau were still
under water.

Some 30,000 people were involved in cleaning up and working
to prevent further flooding, with around 1.5 million sand bags
still in place across the region.

Heavy rain overnight in the southern Austrian provinces of
Styria and Carinthia caused more landslides and flooding,
though there were no reports of casualties.

Roads to popular mountain resorts in the western province
of Tyrol reopened, though many routes remained closed to trucks
and other heavy vehicles. The Austrian government estimates the
damage at hundreds of million of euros.

Power and telephone connections were expected to be
restored in all of the mountainous province by Saturday night,
Austrian news agency APA reported.

In Switzerland, the main route through the Alps, the
Gotthard tunnel, reopened to road traffic after being closed
for five days. But some Alpine villages remained cut off.

Pensioners in the village of Klosters, a ski village
frequented by Britain's Prince Charles, were still holed up in
a hotel after their care home was flooded and hundreds of
tourists in the mountain resort of Engelberg spent a sixth day
cut off from the rest of Switzerland.

More rain was forecast for Switzerland, but without the
intensity of earlier in the week. It would fall mainly south of
the Alps in the Italian-speaking Ticino region which was spared
the earlier deluge.

More than 30 people have died in Romania, while 10 have
died in Switzerland and Austria. One young man drowned in
Germany on Wednesday when out with two friends in a dinghy.