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Flood-Weary Residents Of 17 German Villages Go Home

Two weeks after fleeing to higher ground, 5,200 residents of the flooded Oderbruch region were allowed to return to their homes Saturday.

Officials lifted the evacuation order in the morning after determining that the swollen Oder River had receded to safe levels.

“The dikes are dry and will hold,” said Matthias Freude, president of the Brandenburg state environmental office.

Damage to the dikes, reinforced with hundreds of thousands of sandbags placed by army troops, was estimated at $72 million.

Residents were evacuated from 17 villages in the Oderbruch region July 25 as a swell of floodwaters pushed downstream toward the Baltic Sea in Central Europe’s worst flood in 200 years.

Three villages upstream, however, remained submerged, and it was unclear when residents could go back for more than a quick damage survey.

Some residents of an area upstream accused officials of sacrificing their villages to save Frankfurt an der Oder, 20 miles farther north.

The army’s operations chief called such rumors “nonsense,” and told the newsweekly Focus that there simply was no time to save the villages.