Authorities in Germany's flooded Elbe river basin plan to plug a broken dike by sinking two barges in the gap. Federal and regional governments are arguing over how to finance 8 billion euros in flood relief work.
Flood workers prepared on Saturday to sink two barges to plug a breach in a dike along Germany's flooded river Elbe. Water flowing through the breach had flooded 200 square kilometers (80 square miles) of riverside land over the past week.
The unusual action planned at Fischbeck in the state of Saxony-Anhalt coincided with evacuation orders issued to residents of two townships: Jederitz and Kuhlhaisen.
They were next in the path of waters that have spilled through the gap and across low-lying planes east of the Elbe's usual river channel at a rate of several hundred cubic meters a second.
Explosives were to be used to rapidly sink the barges into the gap, before being weighted down with large sand sacks lowered by a fleet of helicopters to stop the spillover. Anchors for the barges were lowered onto the flooded riverbed.
Water levels high but dropping
Elsewhere along the lower Elbe, flood levels remained abnormally high but they gradually sank. Experts watched sodden flood banks that had been reinforced with sandbags for signs of weakness.
To drain water from another flooded area alongside a tributary upriver, the Saale, a gap was blown in a local dike on Saturday morning.
Downriver, at Lauenburg in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, 300 residents were allowed to return on Saturday to begin their clean-up. Electricity, however, was not expected to be restored before Sunday.
Along the Danube in southern Germany, which also experience massive flooding last week, police reopened a stretch of the A3 autobahn near Deggendorf which had almost been cut off a week ago by floodwaters.
Inland waterway ships resumed traffic on the Danube between the flood-damaged cities of Regensburg and Passau. Hindrances remained on main-trunk rail lines from Munich toward destinations in flood-hit neighboring Austria.
Raise taxes for flood relief?
A row erupted on Saturday on whether taxes should be raised to help finance an 8-billion-euro ($10.7 billion) national fund for flood victims and repairs in the Elbe and Danube catchments.
The sum was pledged on Thursday when Chancellor Angela Merkel met the premiers of Germany's 16 states. They agreed to share the cost fifty-fifty at the federal and state levels.
Norbert Walter-Borjans, the finance minister of Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, proposed on Saturday a temporary 2 percent rise in corporate tax paid by companies to raise 4 billion euros for flood victims.
"We don't need a tax increase," replied federal finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, although he acknowledged that flood repair funding would test his budgetary austerity policy in the next three months leading up to Germany's federal election.
ipj/dr (dpa, Reuters, AFP)