Dikes Hold: Damage Limited as Flood Waters Reach Germany
High flood waters that devastated parts of Poland have now reached Germany. But improvements made to flood control dikes following disastrous floods in 1997 have paid off. So far only one dike has been damaged and officials were able to quickly secure the breech.
Peak flood waters that left mass devastation in their wake in Poland earlier this week arrived in Germany on Thursday and Friday. But as water levels peaked, German officials said they expected damage to be light.
Still, the country has not gotten off completely scot-free. Early in the morning, a dike broke on the Oder River near the eastern German town of Ratzdorf. Raging waters tore a 25 meter-long (82 foot) hole in the levee, but more than 160 workers were able to patch the breech with sandbags and other materials, and officials said the flooding remained under control.
"Our colleagues are already packing up and it looks as if it will be manageable," Brandenburg Governor Matthias Platzeck told the public radio station RBB.
Early Friday afternoon, officials are expected to open up a polder -- an area of land enclosed by dikes -- in the city of Schwedt north of populous Frankfurt an der Oder in order to reduce the pressure on the dikes. The controlled flooding will see a part of the floodwaters flowing into natural hollows that have been specially prepared to contain the onslaught.
Governor Platzeck told RBB he expected the floodwaters to continue to flow down the Oder River for the next four to five days. He described the flooding as the second-worst ever recorded on the Oder. However, he noted that the dikes along the river have been reinforced in recent years and will be able to hold up against the flooding. Germany has invested some 220 million ($270 million) in refurbishing dikes along the river since devastating floods in 1997, the worst the area has seen.
The crest of the flood reached Germany on Friday after flowing along the river near the town of Ratzdorf. The Flood Monitoring Center in Frankfurt reported that flood levels had reached 6.28 meters (20 feet) there, at the mouth of the Neisse River, and had remained unchanged since midnight. The southern stretch of the river in Germany from Ratzdorf to Frankfurt has been placed on the highest flood warning level since Wednesday.
In villages, towns and cities all along the river, flood walls have been erected and sandbags have been placed around threatened buildings and critical infrastructure.
Governor Praises Polish-German Cooperation
In Slubice, Poland, located just across the Oder from Frankfurt, officials evacuated two districts threatened with flooding. But there, too, the dikes were still holding early Friday.
Poland has experienced the brunt of the late-May flooding, which caused 15 deaths in the past two weeks. But water levels of the Vistula River, which flows through the capital city of Warsaw, are now receding.
Brandenburg Governor Platzeck also praised his colleagues in Poland for a strong coordination effort in working together with German safety officials. During the massive flooding along the Oder River in 1997, he said there was practically no cooperation. But that was also before Poland became a member of the European Union and before it joined the Schengen, border-free travel zone in 2008.
Over 100 people died in the 1997 flooding, mostly in Poland and the Czech Republic, and it caused billions of dollars in damage.
dsl -- with wires
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Map: Flood waters in the village of Ratzdorf, Germany
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