Tens of thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes in search of higher ground as the Vltava and dozens of other rivers burst their banks after days of unusually heavy rains. Flooding in Russia, Romania, Austria and Germany has claimed some 95 lives.
The levels of the Vltava dropped slightly on Wednesday, sparing most of the city’s ancient Old Town Square from severe water damage.
“It’s a good sign, but there is still a long way to go. The water is still rushing quite fast, and it’s still extremely dangerous,” rescue worker Petr Manes told Reuters.
Officials expected the floodwaters in Prague to crest throughout the day as they waited nervously to see if barricades quickly erected by volunteers could withstand the force of strong currents and heavy winds. Workers also struggled to keep debris in the surging waters from destroying the ancient stonework on Prague’s famous Charles Bridge, built in the 14th century.
The city of Dresden in southern Germany is among the next-hardest hit as the Elbe River, which is fed by the Vltava, continues to rise. Residents watched historic squares and palaces, whose reconstruction had only taken shape since German reunification, fall victim to floodwaters. Army helicopters flew thousands of patients out of Dresden hospitals as authorities rushed to evacuate those in the flood’s path.
The severe weather has not been limited to Europe. Torrential rains have also caused serious flooding in parts of Nepal, Bangladesh and India where nearly two months of flooding has claimed some 876 lives.
Summer rains in China have caused severe flooding in that country as well, killing more than 800 people including 13 people who died in a landslide on Monday, according to China Central Television.