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Brandenburg on alert as floodwaters rise

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Brandenburg on alert as floodwaters rise
Photo: DPA
10:06 CEST+02:00
Fears the swollen Oder River could burst its banks following massive flooding in Poland intensified Thursday morning, with Brandenburg authorities announcing the maximum threat level.

The gauge in the German town of Ratzdorf near the Polish border reached 6.15 metres Thursday morning – eight centimetres higher than the level at midnight.

The section of the river running from Ratzdorf to the city limits of Frankfurt an der Oder, along with the spot where the tributary Neiße River joins the Oder, hit level four danger – the highest level of the warning scale – on Wednesday night.

After the highest threat level was reached, the authorities raised and reinforced the containment dikes along the river.

In Frankfurt an der Oder, the water level stood at 5.3 metres on Thursday morning, with the warning level at three. Brandenburg Interior Minister Rainer Speer said in a radio interview he expected the water to reach the threat level four in the city as well.

But Speer said he did not expect breaches of the dikes, which had already happened in neighbouring Poland, where floodwaters have killed at least 14 people.

Under the present conditions and the best future prognoses, the dikes would stand up to the flooding, he said.

However, he also warned there were many ageing containment barriers, which were under “particular scrutiny.” Major reinforcements were being made south of Frankfurt an der Oder, where 11,000 sandbags had already been piled up to form a wall.

Hydrologist Matthias Hummel from the high water alert centre declined to say exactly when he expected the peak levels of the flood wave to subside. But the peak phase in Ratzdorf was expected Thursday afternoon or evening. Up to Frankfurt an der Oder, the floodwaters would need about two days to subside.

But Hummel refused to forecast when the all-clear would be sounded.

Brandenburg state premier Matthias Platzeck has broken off his holiday because of the flooding, which has caused disarray because it besieged the region earlier than expected.

The flooding is considered a serious danger, though it is not expected to be as severe as the devastating high waters of 1997, because it will be short-lived.

Many regions in neighbouring Poland have been evacuated after several deaths due to flooding.

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