A massive effort to shore up a rapidly eroding earthen dike kept a flooding river in eastern Germany from swallowing more villages Saturday, but officials warned another wave of high water was on the way.
“We’ve only won the first battle,” said Brandenburg state Environment Minister Matthias Platzeck in Bad Freienwalde, a town threatened by central Europe’s worst flooding this century.
The rain-swollen Oder River has also caused serious flooding in southwestern Poland, where some 1.6 million acres of land were inundated and 40,000 people driven from their homes in recent days.
Poland’s government spokesman Krzysztof Pomes said Saturday that about one-third of that territory was still flooded, including 371 towns and villages, and the evacuees have been unable to return home.
Another round of flood waters passed through the historic city of Wroclaw, Poland, overnight and more rain was predicted. Nevertheless, Pomes said the flood waters were expected to continue receding.
Poland’s post office and railways were shipping donated supplies to flood-affected regions free of charge. Poles have responded to requests for onations with money, food, clothing, furniture and appliances.
“The response has exceeded my expectations,” said Marek Kotanski, who has been organizing relief shipments in Warsaw.
About 100 people were killed in Poland and the neighboring Czech Republic after heavy rains early this month triggered record floods.
In eastern Germany, the level of the Oder River was stable Saturday, but officials worried about how the wave moving through Poland would affect them when it arrives, probably on Wednesday or Thursday.
Several tiny villages were flooded a few days ago when the 100-mile-long dike broke south of Frankfurt an der Oder, 50 miles east of Berlin.
About 5,000 people were evacuated as a precaution Friday from a low-lying area of fields and villages south and east of Bad Freienwalde.
Round-the-clock sandbagging by 1,000 soldiers and civilian volunteers, however, kept the water from breaking through the weakening dike.
“We didn’t think we could do it,” said one civil engineer.
Officials said the danger would not be over though until the river level dropped by three feet, which it gave no sign of doing yet.
Angelika and Burkhard Jendritzki went back to their house in one village, Neureetz, on Saturday to pick up some more things and check on their dog - a Rottweiler-German shepherd mix named Bonnie. The dog was left tied up on the roof with food and water because it doesn’t get along well with strangers.
“The dog is well taken care of,” Jendritzki said. “At least he’ll stay dry.”
Neureetz itself looked like a ghost town, with streets empty and windows shuttered. Police had sealed off the roads to prevent looting - a major concern among villagers - and were letting only residents with urgent business through.
German insurance companies estimated the damage so far at the equivalent of more than $555 million. State officials said environmental damage caused by pollutants in the water, such as heating oil, could send the bill even higher.
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