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Romanians brace for Danube flood peak

Heavy rain kills over 40 in West Africa: UN
Dakar (AFP) July 7, 2010 - At least 42 people died due to heavy rainfall in West Africa in June, with 31 deaths in Ghana alone, the UN said Wednesday. "During the month of June, heavy rainfall caused devastating floods in several states," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a bulletin for June. In Ghana, 31 people have been confirmed dead and more than 25,000 affected by the rainfall, which has damaged schools, bridges, roads and houses, the agency said. The agency said more than in total 35,000 people had been affected in the region, leaving vulnerable groups at risk of food shortages. Eight people died in Ivory Coast and three in Togo. The rainy season began in May, causing downpours in Benin, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Liberia, Niger and Togo, the agency said. Mayor, three others die in plane crash in Mexico floods
Mexico City (AFP) July 7, 2010 - A mayor and at least three others died in northern Mexico on Wednesday when the small plane they were travelling in to oversee flood damage plunged to the ground, an official said. The Cessna plane had been carrying Jose Manuel Maldonado, mayor of Piedras Negras, another official, a photographer and the pilot, Coahuila state governor Humberto Moreira told Formato 21 radio. The plane exploded on hitting the ground, a radio correspondent said. The city of Piedras Negras, across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas, has been hard-hit by floods and another storm is on its way.

Relentless rains have raised reservoirs along the US-Mexico border, forcing officials to release water into flooded rivers and evacuate tens of thousands of people. Authorities evacuated some 18,000 people from the town of Anahuac, in Nuevo Leon state, on Tuesday, for fear that water would overflow from a nearby dam. Hurricane Alex unleashed heavy rains on the region last week, causing flooding that killed at least 12 people in Nuevo Leon and left widespread devastation in the city of Monterrey. The US National Hurricane Center said a new storm was likely to hit the region within a day or two, after travelling across the Gulf of Mexico.
by Staff Writers
Galati, Romania (AFP) July 7, 2010
Inhabitants of Galati, eastern Romania, battled Wednesday to protect their homes from the rain-swollen Danube, hoping emergency dykes will hold as the 'blue' river threatens to burst its banks.

"In 2004 and 2006, the Danube had already reached a very high level but I have never seen it as high as today," 63-year-old pensioner Ioana Vancu told AFP.

Her house is located in one of the districts that could be flooded if an emergency dam built by the authorities does not hold.

"My insurer told me to put all my belongings in the attic but I could only carry some clothes up there," she added.

The Danube, the longest river in the European Union, could on Saturday top its highest ever recorded level of 6.90 metres (23 feet), Romanian authorities warned.

Galati, a city of 291,000 inhabitants and also the major inland harbour in Romania, is particularly at risk as it lies at the confluence of three major rivers swollen by torrential rains: the Danube, the Prut and the Siret.

Romania has been hit by severe storms and floods since June 21, which have left 25 people dead and forced thousands to leave their homes. Some have been able to get back in recent days.

On the Danube bank, 28-year-old Livia Baciu is building a small brick wall to prevent waters from entering the kiosk where she sells sweets and other goods.

"I have never seen floods like this and I am worried. If the dyke does not hold, I will lose everything", she told AFP, deploring the late warning given by local authorities.

To prevent "a major urban disaster," the government has decided to build an emergency 4.5-kilometre-long (2.8 mile) dam along the banks of the river. Since Sunday evening, more than 4,500 police officers, firemen, soldiers and volunteers have been stacking sand bags to complete the dam on time.

A second wall made of metal panels has also been built, "just in case."

"Galati is prepared for the worst," Romanian President Traian Basescu said during a visit on the site on Tuesday. "To see Galati flooded would be a shame for all of us. It would mean the authorities are powerless," he added.

Environment Minister Laszlo Borbely even called on God to help Romania avoid such a disaster: "We hope someone up there will help us because here on Earth we did everything human beings could do."

Upstream from Galati, in the village of I.C Bratianu, inhabitants decided to rely on themselves first to save their homes. Some of the houses, built very close to the river, have already had their backyard flooded.

"I took some days off from work in order to protect my house. We have to do something if we want to avoid being left only with pictures of our homes after the flood," a man in his thirties told AFP. He refused to give his name, like other inhabitants, fearing their criticism of the local mayor's passivity could infuriate the authorities.

"We did not have any bags to put sand in, we did not have any tools to make the dam higher so we had to collect money to get all this done. Only then did the mayor start doing something," another inhabitant said.

Four European countries --Austria, Belgium, Estonia and France -- have already offered help to Romania to cope with the devastating floods.

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Romania issues flooding red alert on the Danube
Bucharest (AFP) July 5, 2010
Romanian authorities on Monday issued a flooding red alert for several towns along the Danube, which has risen to a record level, threatening to cause further damage in the hard-hit country. "This week we will be facing dangerous meteorological and hydrological events," Prime Minister Emil Boc said after an emergency meeting of the government. The Danube has topped its record level in th ... read more

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