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Floods Europe*

August 9, 2002

Floods Sweep Through Europe, More Than 20 Dead


Filed at 4:26 p.m. ET

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The death toll from torrential rains and floods sweeping through Europe rose toward 30 Friday with scores missing and thousands stranded.

Worst hit was Russia's Black Sea region where a tornado tore through tourist spots, whipping up floods that swept away wooden homes and carried cars into the sea.

At least 21 people were reported dead with many more missing after muddy torrents surged through the region.

In the Czech Republic flooding killed several people in the south of the country and forced over 2,000 to evacuate their homes Thursday as heavy rains swelled rivers.

Unseasonal storms have also brought chaos to Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Austria, the Crimea, Italy and Spain.

The flooding in southern Russia was the region's second inundation in two months. Most of the 21 victims died in Shirokaya Balka village, a resort not far from the port of Novorossiisk, the Emergencies Ministry said.

``There was a family stuck in a tree -- the husband, the wife and the child. The child was crying until we finally managed to bring them down,'' Oleg Perminov, a vacationer, told RTR television.

The floods left cars skewered in trees and furniture scattered along the shoreline. Bodies recovered from the sea were laid in front of a hostel for identification.

``I helped recover and carry five corpses,'' another vacationer told ORT television. ``I've lived in Novorossiisk for 40 years and I have never seen anything like this.''

Floodwaters also washed away homes and bridges in inland localities, brought down telephone lines and submerged railway tracks.

Thousands of stranded vacationers faced the prospect of another night sleeping at railroad stations as army units tried to repair damaged tracks.

In the Czech Republic at least four people are feared dead following flooding.

Police said a tree uprooted and fell on a hut, killing a 21-year-old woman in a summer camp 50 miles south of the capital Prague.

A motorist was feared dead after his car was swept away by the Malse river and a 19-year-old woman was thought to have drowned after a raft overturned. A fireman died of a heart attack during rescue work.

Flooding from the Malse and Blanice rivers forced more than 2,000 people to leave their homes in southern areas, including Ceske Budejovice, home of the Czech Budweiser beer.

Eyewitnesses said Thursday water was waist-deep in some areas of the historic city.

Forecasters said rainfall over the last few days had been equivalent to a three-month summer average.


In Romania, heavy rains in the southern county of Gorj killed a child and an old man, bringing to seven the number of people to have died in floods over the past two weeks.

``I was asleep and felt the bed was moving,'' said Maria Nitu from the southern village of Draganesti.

``I woke up and saw the water up to the edge of the bed. I jumped out and ran into the attic and stayed there until some people came and took me in their boat. The water was up to the ceiling.''

Last week, high waters in the Ploiesti oilfield, north of Bucharest, ruptured a pipe sending tons of crude oil into the river Prahova.

In the last two weeks three people drowned when floods hit the Black Sea county of Constanta and two died after lightning struck a house in northeast Romania.

In Bulgaria, floods have affected swathes of the north and south of the country over the past 48 hours, killing livestock and triggering landslides, civil defense officials said.

Thunderstorms killed a shepherd in southeastern Bulgaria and flooding damaged homes, roads, bridges and crops as well as cutting electricity supplies and telephone lines.

In Croatia a newspaper quoted experts as saying it was the most unstable summer in 30 years.

There have been 10 whirlwinds in the past three months -- compared to an average of one a year in the last decade. Strong winds have toppled trees, destroyed powerlines and blown roofs off houses.

Ukraine's Emergencies Ministry said Friday scores of houses had been flooded and thousands left without electricity in the Crimea region on the Black Sea.

In northern Austria, a costly clean-up is under way in villages along the Kamp river, a tributary of the Danube. One weather station on the river recorded the highest rainfall in 48 hours since records began over 100 years ago.

Vacationers in southern Europe have also been hit by bad weather and there are warnings of more on the way in the Spanish region of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands.

Italian seaside resorts, normally baking in August, have also seen violent storms. Farmers in the northeast are bracing for more rains after the worst hailstorm in recent memory wrecked large swathes of crops.

But the story is very different in the south of the country. Sicily is suffering its worst drought in 30 years.

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