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Thousands evacuated as deadly floods swamp Europe

Flood waters continue to rise in Europe, Austria, Germany and The Czech Republic have been hit hardest with thousands forced to flee their homes. The River Danube is among the rivers that have burst its banks and there are worries of flooding in Hungary and Slovakia. The flooding follows a downpour in which two months-worth of rain fell in just two days. ITV's Fatima Manji reports.

Floodwaters from heavy rains swamped five countries in Europe and threatened others, leaving at least eight people dead and nine missing.

Germany, Austria, Poland, Switzerland and the Czech Republic have been affected, with officials in the Czech capital, Prague, closing the subway system, evacuating thousands of homes and warning other people not to come into the city. Slovakia and Hungary were preparing flood defenses on the Danube River.

In Germany, rain levels that reached record highs in May contributed to widespread flooding across southern and eastern parts of the country.

Michaela Rehle / Reuters

The Bavarian town of Passau sits in high water on Monday.

In the southern state of Bavaria, more than 20,000 firefighters and other rescue workers were battling rising water levels, especially in the southeast. The historic cities of Passau and Rosenheim declared states of emergency.

Water in Passau, which is surrounded by three rivers, was at record levels, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said. "The situation is ... dramatic."

Rescue workers and volunteers were filling sandbags, erecting temporary water barriers and helping to evacuate homes Monday morning, according to Passau's crisis management team.

The German Army deployed more than 1,000 soldiers to Saxony and 600 to Bavaria to help with rescue and protection measures, and the air force sent helicopters to help with evacuations, officials said. Chancellor Angela Merkel planned to travel to the worst-hit areas on Tuesday. 

In the eastern German state of Thuringia, more than 7,000 people had to spend the night in temporary shelters.

In the Czech Republic, six people were dead and five were missing, despite more than 14,000 firefighters evacuating the homes of 7,000 people and carrying out 256 rescues, said national Fire and Rescue service spokeswoman Nicole Zaoralová.

Spring showers are unrelenting in areas of Europe where days of rain have sparked serious flooding. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

Czech officials declared a state of emergency and closed the subway system in Prague for the first time since devastating floods struck in 2002. People were urged not to travel to the capital, as waters of the Vltava River reached critical levels and threatened the city's ancient center. "The situation in Prague is still not stabilized," Zaoralová said.

"We have problems in the whole area of the Czech Republic, especially Bohemia," an Interior Ministry spokesman said. "We are hoping that it will not be as bad as it was in 2002."

In Austria, two people died, including a cleanup worker killed in a mudslide near Salzburg. Three more were reported missing.

Train lines in many parts of northwest Austria were suspended Sunday due to landslides. In just two days, Austria had experienced as much rain as it normally would in two months, the Austrian meteorological center said.

This weekend saw many southern German towns struck particularly hard. "In the past three days, more than 400 liters of rain per square meter [about 10 gallons per square foot] were measured in many regions that border the Alps," meteorologist Klaus Lessmann from German public broadcaster ZDF said.

The German Weather Service, DWD, reported Monday that Germany had not seen such extreme soil moisture in the past 50 years.

"Many fields are completely saturated and cannot hold more water," Johanna Anger from the DWD said.

Roman Vondrous / CTK via AP

A couple in a Prague suburb carry three kittens in a plastic bag through floodwaters on Sunday.

Many residents in affected towns and villages were without power overnight and as a precautionary measure, many schools were kept closed on Monday.

Evacuations were also taking place in Poland and Switzerland.

"Rain, Rain, Go Away: Germany Drowns in Endless Downpour," Germany's Der Spiegel magazine headlined on its website.

"There is hope on the horizon," Anger said. "There is still some rain today, but the weather forecast is better for the coming days."

Despite less rain and better weather forecasts, however, officials were still on high alert.

"Especially along the Danube, we cannot speak of an easing of flood situation at all," Herrmann said.

 

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