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Europe

Europe Cleans Up as Flood Waters Recede

Flood waters were receding in Europe Saturday, following a weeklong crisis which left at least 70 people dead across the center and east of the continent.

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Romania has been hardest hit with at least 33 killed in the floods

Meanwhile, across the continent in parched Portugal,

firefighters brought seven blazes under control overnight that had flared up again during one of the country's most destructive fire seasons in a decade.

In Romania, hardest hit from the floods with a death toll of 33, authorities said the torrential rain which fuelled the flooding should tail off by the end of the weekend, with fine weather expected to return by Monday. Water levels were also dropping in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Bulgaria and Poland.

In Romania's central Harghita region, authorities Saturday

continued the search for two people who were still missing, but the chances of finding them were said to be slim.

Health officials there on Friday said there was a risk of

disease, with sewers wrecked by flooding and hundreds of animal carcasses strewn across the waterlogged streets of the region's villages.

Swiss evacuations

Flut in der Schweiz

A woman pushes a man in a wheelchair as other persons wade through the flooded Schweizerhof Quay in Lucerne, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2005.

In Switzerland, inhabitants of communities evacuated in the face of floods and landslides were slowly returning home. In the Oberland region near the capital Bern, around a thousand residents went back to the villages they left behind as flood waters tumbled from the Alps on Monday and Tuesday. In Bern itself, authorities said that 340 people who were forced to leave a lowlying district when the Aare river burst its banks would be able to go home over the weekend.

In the nearby lakeside town of Thun, the water level was

dropping by around 20 centimetres (one foot) a day and the flood alert was expected to be called off by Monday, officials said. But the water level reamined high in Erding, on the Isar river which feeds into the Danube, which was protected by sandbags.

In Austria, only the Alpine community of Gargellen in the

western Vorarlberg region was still cut off, with the military

continuing to ferry supplies by helicopter.

Rescue workers there told AFP they also had plans in place to evacuate 500 people, half of them tourists. Access to other flood-stricken parts of the Austrian Alps was

mostly reestablished Saturday, notably in the resorts of Ischgl and Galtuer in the southern Tyrol region, where around 6,000 tourists had been stranded.

Thousands of soldiers and volunteers were at work clearing

debris and repairing flood damage. Further east in Austria, there were landslides overnight Friday in the regions of Carinthia and Styria, but no one was injured. Austria's social affairs minister Ursula Haubner announced Saturday that families without insurance would received between

1,000 and 2,000 euros.

In Bulgaria, where the floods killed 26 people, several thousand soldiers remained mobilized to clear blocked water courses. But the situation was largely returning to normal. In Poland, a state of emergency was declared over in regions along the Czech border.

Portugal battles fires

Portugal Feuerwehrmann Waldbrände in Portugal

In Portugal, the fire service said the risk of new blazes remained high Saturday after bringing seven blazes under control overnight that had flared up during daytime high temperatures.

The fire risk was "maximum" in three northern districts and

"very high" in nine other districts in the north and center. Since Wednesday, firefighters have gradually brought under control dozens of forest fires which have been raging for two weeks in the center and north of the country.

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