Hundreds of people have been forced to flee their flood-threatened homes across Central Europe with many more on evacuation standby as the levels of some rivers continued to climb.
The Elbe's highest expected level has yet to be reached
Around 300 people were evacuated from their Dresden homes Friday night in the face of the rising Elbe which threatens to flood the historic center.
Swollen with snowmelt and recent rain, the river breached a dam resulting in the evacuation of an additional 500 people in low-lying towns surrounding the city, according to Dresden spokesman Sven Kindler.
"People will expose themselves to an irresponsible danger if they stay at home," Dresden's deputy mayor warned on Friday night.
The floods won't affect Dresden's historic buildings
The Elbe, which rose to 7.29 meters (24 feet) on Saturday morning, compared with 6.95 meters on Friday and a normal level of about two meters, was expected to climb even higher on Sunday and reach its peak by Tuesday, according to Saxon weather officials.
Residents in other parts of Saxony are also filling sandbags with the help of German army personnel and volunteers to reinforce dams and protect buildings. Soldiers were deployed in six cities along the Elbe.
Floods not as bad as 2002
Thanking the residents affected for their composed response to the flooding, Saxony State Premier Georg Milbradt.
"We are not experiencing a catastrophe as we did in August 2002," he said. "The damages are not comparable, and we are better prepared. Right now we are having a winter flood that is stronger than normal."
Milbradt called on people in the affected areas to leave their houses when instructed to avoid more dangerous evacuations at a later point. Many of the residents are unwilling to leave the homes they just finished repairing after the 2002 flood that devastated the region when water levels in Dresden reached 9.4 meters.
At Pirna, around 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) from the Czech frontier, people living near the river were evacuated as a preventive measure. The old town is already under water and the cellars of many buildings have already flooded. People are doing what they can to protect buildings with sandbags.
Homes in low areas around Dresden are already flooded
"Many have learned from the last time, and blocked up their shops already," said one Pirna resident. "This year we were told very early on what we should expect so we were able to get ready. So I don't think it'll be as bad this time."
At Bad Schandau, around 1,000 people already left their houses on Wednesday night.
"We're really worried because we were flooded in 2002," said one woman. "I don't think I can go through that again. It was too much of an ordeal."