Flood death toll rises in Europe

Europe’s flood death toll has swelled to at least 74 as torrential rains unleashed raging waters that swept away Russian tourists, triggered landslides in Germany and Switzerland and shut down shipping on the Danube River in Austria.

Europe’s flood death toll has swelled to at least 74 as torrential rains unleashed raging waters that swept away Russian tourists, triggered landslides in Germany and Switzerland and shut down shipping on the Danube River in Austria.

Russia was by far the hardest-hit area, with at least 58 deaths.

Giant cranes hoisted ruined cars and other debris out of the Black Sea on Monday as cleanup crews scoured coastal beaches in a search for more bodies.

Thousands of Russian tourists who had descended on the Black Sea Coast for their summer holidays were caught up in the surprise flooding.

Many remained stranded, their cars swept out to sea by a wall of water that came rushing down from the mountains.

As many as 4,000 tourists were still trapped in Shirokaya Balka, a scenic coastal village that was devastated by the flooding, the Interfax news agency reported.

An investigative team was being formed to examine all the deaths for possible criminal charges, prosecutor Nikolai Buzko told the ITAR-Tass news agency.

The team was also examining why some buildings had been erected in areas where development is prohibited due to erosion and flooding concerns.

Austria saw its first three casualties in more than a week of unprecedented flooding.

Two were in hard-hit towns in Salzburg province, where a firefighter was swept away by a churning river in Mariapfarr, and a man whose body was found floating in a flooded cellar in Hallein.

The third was a 48-year-old man who was crushed in a landslide near the village of Kirchheim in Upper Austria province.

"The scene is catastrophic," Wilfried Weissgaerber, the national fire brigade commander for the province of Lower Austria, told Austrian radio as he described collapsed houses and washed-out railway tracks.

In Salzburg, 1,000 buildings were partially or totally submerged, authorities said.

In Germany, a police officer died after her car ran out of control and overturned on Sunday night on the way to Wismar on the Baltic Sea coast, and a 68-year-old woman died of exhaustion while trying to clear her flooded basement in Dresden.

Near the city of Jena, another driver was killed in an accident that injured nine others, officials said.

Authorities in Thuringia state issued a flood alert for the Pleisse River, which broke its banks.

Firefighters stacked 30,000 sandbags to protect houses from the rising water, and hundreds of German soldiers were helping residents reinforce riverbanks in other critical areas.

In the north, a train derailed near Hamburg after running into a mudslide caused by the rain. No one was injured, though the conductor and a passenger were treated for shock.

In northern Italy, where unusually heavy rain and hail ravaged grapevines, fruit, olives, flowers, tobacco and other crops last week, the nation’s largest agriculture group estimated the damage at €300m.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Monday approved €50m in emergency aid.

In the Czech Republic, thousands of people fled their homes after numerous rivers overflowed their banks.

In Radotin, a small town west of Prague, a 55-year-old man drowned in the swollen Vltava River, raising the death toll in that country to seven.

Prime minister Vladimir Spidla declared a state of emergency in Prague and four other regions.

In Prague, the Vltava threatened to flood the famous Kampa Island, known for its architecture, and a zoo on the outskirts of the Czech capital. Some animals were moved to higher ground as a precaution.

A Prague hospital in the flood zone evacuated about 100 patients yesterday and workers were moving books and important documents to higher floors in buildings that house the National Library and the Czech Senate.

In eastern Switzerland, torrential rains caused a series of small landslides, including one that cut off a rail line between Chur and Arosa.

Another on the Griesalp mountain in central Switzerland swept away a bridge, stranding more than 150 people until an emergency span could be put in place.

Austrian authorities used helicopters to rescue stranded homeowners from rooftops in Linz, about 120 miles west of Vienna, and 4,000 soldiers joined sandbagging operations Monday in the waterlogged provinces of Lower Austria and Upper Austria.

Water levels in the Danube River, which flows through Vienna, were being monitored anxiously.

Austria’s navigation authority halted all shipping on the Danube Monday as water levels neared 100-year highs, spokesman Reinhard Vorderwinkler said.

In Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, the sightseeing boat Amadeus sank after being swamped in the flood-swollen Salzach River. There were no injuries.

Police in the scenic Danube town of Krems, meanwhile, said there were reports of evacuated homes being looted.

More in this section

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox