Volunteers, rescuers and soldiers in northern German states feverishly piled up sandbags along the Elbe river which has already deluged vast stretches with seas of brown water from the Czech Republic to eastern Germany.
After days of flooding in southern and eastern Germany, more than 11,000
soldiers have been deployed to help fight Europe's worst river flooding in over a decade that has forced mass evacuations and killed at least 12.
German Chamber of Trade and Industry head Eric Schweitzer said in Friday's Rheinische Post newspaper that in some regions the damage was expected to be
greater than in the 2002 floods whose economic cost had amounted to €11 billion ($15 billion).
In the medieval city of Magdeburg in Saxony-Anhalt state, the Elbe surpassed record levels from historic flooding in 2002 Friday with worse still to come, according to officials.
Dozens of army and Red Cross jeeps and trucks were parked at the entry to Mühlberg, a town of 4,000 inhabitants in Brandenburg state, 150 kilometres
(90 miles) south of the capital Berlin.
"We are afraid. But we must wait here for that to pass because we have animals," Silke Christen, 47, who owns a horse-breeding business, told news agency AFP.
Volunteers scrambled to fill sandbags as the Elbe reached 9.9 metres Friday, just 10 centimetres below the maximum the dykes are able to resist. "As you can see, it's urgent," a soldier commented, while a firefighter described the situation as "tense".
Little respite was in sight for residents of another Saxony-Anhalt city, Bitterfeld, visited Thursday by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, where more residents fled to safety as a lake threatened to flood parts of the city.
In the historic eastern cities of Dresden and Halle, where 30,000 people were evacuated after recent days saw the highest water level in 400 years on a local tributary, as well as in Bavaria in the south, the water level was slowly falling.
After Merkel pledged aid of at least €100 million, another offer of help came from Bavaria's footballing heroes.
Bayern Munich which recently scored its own place in history by becoming the first German club to win the Bundesliga, German Cup and the Champions League in the same campaign, announced a charity match in aid of flood victims.