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HomeINTERNATIONAL NEWSHelicopter rescues, prison evacuated as floods rise in south Germany

Helicopter rescues, prison evacuated as floods rise in south Germany

Germany’s army stepped in to help as severe rainstorms lashed large parts of the country’s south on Saturday, leading many towns to declare states of emergency as rivers swelled and floods rose, requiring the evacuation of residents and prisoners.

As the heavy rainfall continued late into the night, preparations were underway to evacuate 670 people in Upper Bavaria, with boats being deployed in the town of Schrobenhausen, local authorities said, after earlier declaring a state of disaster.

At least nine other municipalities also declared a state of emergency as water levels rose during the day.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said 520 volunteers working for the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) were bringing people to safety, securing dykes and pumping out water.

The Bundeswehr, Germany’s army, was also supporting relief efforts, distributing blankets and camp beds and bringing further supplies. The Red Cross also stepped in, providing trained water rescuers and specialist diving teams.

Earlier, train services were cancelled between the Bavarian capital Munich, Bregenz in Austria and Switzerland’s Zurich due to flooding. The route between Ulm and Augsburg was also affected, and long-distance trains travelling between Stuttgart and Munich were diverted.

Authorities in the Bavarian district of Augsburg said evacuations were required after a dyke and a dam gave way under the deluge.

The Bavarian Red Cross said it used a helicopter to rescue two people from the roof of their home in Babenhausen. The pair were in a life-threatening situation, a spokesman said.

Emergency services in the area reportedly brought more than 100 people to safety on Saturday including dozens of children.

In the Bavarian town of Fischach, west of Munich, a helicopter was used to rescue people from their homes after the Schmutter river broke its banks. The residents would not have been able to leave their homes by any other means, said a spokeswoman for the district administration.

According to police, boats and emergency services were also on the way to take people from inundated houses. Several neighbouring districts declared a state of emergency as the rain continued and water levels continued to rise.

A prison in Memmingen was also evacuated as waters rose, with its 100 prisoners being taken in by institutions nearby.

As several rivers rose to record levels, Bavaria’s Environment Ministry set up a flood task force to coordinate measures throughout the state. Officials were preparing state reservoirs for the floods, the ministry said.

“The situation is very serious, especially in large parts of [the region of] Swabia. The warning services are permanently on alert and are keeping an eye on the situation,” state environment minister Thorsten Glauber said. “Everything possible is being done to prevent or reduce damage through consistent action in advance.”

In the southern state of Baden-Württemberg, west of Bavaria, the situation was rapidly deteriorating after the Rottum river began to flood several towns. In the town of Reinstetten, 150 emergency services worked for more than 22 hours to stem flooding from a breached dam, Mayor Philipp Bürkle told dpa.

Bürkle said fire brigades from the surrounding area were pumping out cellars and distributing sandbags. An assisted living facility in the area with 15 residents was evacuated.

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Further north, authorities in the resort town of Wiesensteig imposed a requirement for its 2,100 residents to boil water before consumption after floodwaters washed over the local water supply facility.

To the south, near Lake Constance, a school in the village of Meckenbeuren had to be evacuated when flooding from a local river overwhelmed sandbag barriers.

The German weather service predicted further thunderstorms and as much as 80 litres of rainfall per square metre in southern areas of Germany on Saturday. The storms were also likely to continue on Sunday.

Inclement weather also caused problems in eastern Germany, with the fire brigade called out repeatedly in eastern parts of the state of Thuringia due to heavy rain and thunderstorms on Saturday afternoon.

By dpa correspondents

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