PRAGUE (AP) — At least 15 people have died and four others are missing in the floods that have ravaged central Europe, authorities said Wednesday as swollen rivers surged downstream toward Germany.
Firefighters said more than 19,000 people were evacuated from the flooding in the Czech Republic. One raging flood that inundated parts of Prague was now heading north toward Germany, particularly the city of Dresden.
The dead included eight people in the Czech Republic, four in Germany, two in Austria and one in Slovakia. At least four other people were missing in the Czech Republic, according to its interior minister.
Authorities are now concerned about the safety of chemical plants next to the overflowing rivers. Some plants have been shut down and their chemicals removed.
More than 3,000 people had to leave their homes in the Czech city of Usti nad Labem on the Elbe River near the German border, where floodwaters were still on the rise Wednesday.
High water had already submerged parts of the city as well many other towns along the Elbe, the biggest river in the country.
"It's not over yet," Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas said. "There're tough moments still ahead of us."
He pledged more than 5 billion koruna ($250 million) for clean-up work.
Czech public television said a barrier that protects one major chemical plant in Lovosice was leaking Wednesday. Necas was scheduled to visit the plant later in the day.
Downstream, hundreds of people were being evacuated in the German city of Dresden, where the Elbe was expected to crest Wednesday evening. Early in the day it was running about 7 meters (21 feet) over normal levels in the eastern city.
In the eastern German city of Halle, the downtown area was already flooded. Elsewhere in the affected regions, soldiers and residents were reinforcing soaked levees with sand bags to keep them from breaking.
The water was slowly receding in the hard-hit Bavarian city of Passau, leaving behind vast amounts of debris. Flooding earlier this week in Passau was the worst in 500 years.
In the Czech capital of Prague, the level of the swollen Vltava river was dropping and authorities surveyed the damage.
While most parts of the city, including its historical landmarks, were well protected by high metal barriers, Prague's Zoo was particularly badly hit for a second time in 11 years. The lower side of the park was submerged and animals there had to be evacuated.
The zoo estimated the damage at $8 million but insisted it would reopen the higher parts of the complex shortly.
"The flood will not break us," the zoo said in a statement.
Kirsten Grieshaber contributed to this story from Berlin
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