Bavaria is breathing a cautious sigh of relief as flooding subsides, but not before it claimed the life of a 28-year-old, Germany's first death due to the high water. The Swiss are bracing themselves for more flooding.
The floodwaters have cut off some transportation routes
A man has drowned in the severe flooding in southern Germany, police said Thursday as flood waters slowly ebbed, easing fears of further disaster. As of Thursday afternoon, six districts were still considered disaster areas, while six others have been given the all-clear signal.
A 28-year-old man drowned after he and two 17-year-old friends went out in a rubber dinghy on a raging river near the Bavarian city of Rosenheim on Wednesday evening, according to the police. The craft capsized and the three were swept into raging waters. Rescuers were able to save the 17-year-olds but only located the body of the other man an hour and a half later. He was reanimated at the scene but died later in the hospital.
On Thursday, rivers that had risen to record levels earlier in the week continued to recede or remained below the hazardous heights that had been expected, authorities said.
The cities of Passau, which is crossed by three rivers, and Ingolstadt were expected to escape the devastation initially predicted when torrential rains produced heavy damage in the Alpine region to the south on Monday and Tuesday.
The town of Eschenlohe in Bavaria has been hard hit
Dry weather was forecast through much of the region, providing relief for panicked residents who had piled sandbags in front of homes and businesses in recent days to shield them from the raging waters.
The level of the Danube between Passau and the city of Kelheim near Regensburg remained lower than expected, although it was not expected to peak until Thursday afternoon.
Authorities in Kelheim said there was a risk that a dam on the Danube could break and workers were urgently putting out sandbags to limit damage. A nearby monastery in Weltenburg that originated in the seventh century is under threat.
Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber has announced an immediate aid program for flood victims. Private households with damages of over 5,000 euros ($6,140) can receive 2,500 euros in aid. Small and medium-sized companies which suffer damage to machinery or their shop floors are eligible for grants of up to 150,000 euros.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, left, wears rubber boots as he walks in the mud of a flood-striken street in Grimma, eastern Germany, in this Aug. 14, 2002 photo.
Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is scheduled to visit the flood-stricken region on Thursday. He has offered to share the costs of the flood aid with the federal state of Bavaria, but has also criticized the conservative government there for cutting funds meant for the development of flood protection measures.
Tourists i n Austria stra n ded
In Austria, also hard hit by three days of heavy flooding, the death toll climbed to four when the body of an 81-year-old man was found on Thursday. The man was driving his car when he veered into the raging currents of the Litz River in the western province of Vorarlberg.
As the rains subsided, several areas remained isolated in the west of the country, which has been worst hit by the flooding.
Krugzell in southern Germany
Army helicopters were airlifting supplies to 5,000 stranded tourists in the west. In Paznauntal, west of the province of Tyrol, stranded vacationers on Thursday began to receive shipments of food and medicine brought to them by 14 military helicopters, including five Black Hawk S-70s.
The Austrian weather service has forecast light rain for Friday and sunny weather over the weekend throughout the country.
Swiss brace for more
Switzerland has been one of the worst hit by the high water, which has cut roads, power and communications and caused an estimated $1 billion in damage.
In the capital Berne, residents in the old town had to be lifted from their rooftops in helicopters as floodwaters threatened to wash centuries-old buildings away.
A woman pushes a man in a wheelchair as other persons wade through the flooded Schweizerhof Quay in Lucerne, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2005.
Residents in Lucerne piled sandbags to protect the businesses and homes as the swollen river Reuss continued to rise, threatening a 14th century bridge which is a national landmark. Large pieces of driftwood which have been swept into rivers and lakes are a particular danger, since they can smash structures in their paths. Landslides are also now a serious hazard in this mountainous country.
Forecasters say the situation there could get worse, since another 20 - 30 millimeters (around an inch) of rain is forecast for later in the week.