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Swollen Oder River Forces Evacuations

MONDAY, JULY 28, 1997

Floodwaters that broke through a dike and submerged villages last week poured back into the swollen Oder River on Sunday, raising levels downstream to record highs and forcing evacuations.

Officials ordered the 17,000 people in the Polish border city of Slubice - just across the water from Frankfurt an der Oder - to evacuate again for fear the river would break through the dike.

To the north, about 15,000 people on the German side were told to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Hundreds of sandbaggers worked furiously to prevent a new tear in the weakening dike from worsening.

The north-flowing Oder, which forms a natural border between Poland and Germany, started flooding about three weeks ago after heavy rains in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Breaks in the 100-mile-long dike, 50 miles east of Berlin, turned a low-lying village region into a small lake last week.

Early Sunday, that water broke through the dike again and started flowing back into the river, raising the water level in Frankfurt an der Oder to a record high of about 21 feet.

The floods - Central Europe’s most deadly in 200 years - killed about 100 people in Poland and neighboring Czech Republic.

In Germany, insurance companies estimated the damage so far at more than $555 million.

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