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Sirens blare as rising waters flood Venice

Thousands evacuated in Western Balkans flooding
Belgrade (AFP) Dec 3, 2010 - Flooding caused by rivers swollen by heavy rainfall forced thousands of people from their homes in Albania, Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro on Friday, officials said. More than 7,000 people were moved to safer areas in Albania, where Prime Minister Sali Berisha described the situation as "very serious". Berisha said that "millions of hectares (acres) of land are flooded, over 7,000 people are already evacuated and the evacuations of other families threatened by the flood water continues". Thousands of houses were damaged and roads linking the capital Tirana to the north of the country were completely blocked, local authorities reported.

In Bosnia authorities declared a state of emergency for the eastern towns of Bijeljina, Visegrad and Zvornik along the Drina river which is the natural border between Bosnia and Serbia. Troops moved in to the villages surrounding northeastern Bijeljina after some 1,000 homes were flooded and the inhabitants were evacuated. Because of the fast flow in the Drina, "two-thirds of the village was flooded within several hours", local official Drago Ristic told Srna Bosnian Serb news agency. Across the border in Serbia, at least 1,400 people were evacuated from the town of Loznica. More than 3,000 more people were at risk from the flooding of the Drina in the area of Loznica, Serbia's interior ministry said. In Montenegro around 1,300 people were evacuated due to the "unprecedented" floods that hit the country, Interior Minister Ivan Brajovic said.
by Staff Writers
Venice, Italy (AFP) Dec 3, 2010
Venice awoke to warning sirens Friday as tides in the famous lagoon reached their highest level this year after a period of heavy rain, leaving most of the historic city under water.

Shortly before dawn, sirens rang out across the city to warn residents and tourists that the water level had risen above 110 centimetres (43 inches). Later in the morning, the level had risen to 140 centimetres above sea level.

Temporary footbridges in St. Mark's Square typically put down for pedestrians when the area floods were removed by local authorities as the risk rose that they would be swept away by the fast rising waters.

Residents in boots could be seen making their way along flooded pavements.

The city is currently on orange flood alert -- for a "very sustained tide" of between 110 and 139 centimetres. The highest red alert level is for "an exceptionally high tide" of 140 centimetres or more above sea level.

Venice residents also received warning text messages on their mobile phones, which are sent out for tides of 110 centimetres or more.

The official forecast is that the level of the waters will go down to a maximum of 120 centimetres on Saturday and 95 centimetres on Sunday.

The heavy flooding is due to a combination of current bad weather conditions and the level of tides coming in to the Venice lagoon off the Adriatic.

Venice suffered its worst flooding in 22 years in December 2008 as water in the city stood more than 150 metres deep before beginning to recede.

The worst recent incident was on November 4, 1966, when the city was submerged by 194 centimetres of water amid catastrophic flooding in Italy.

The city has been wrestling for decades with the problems posed by the threat of rising sea levels and the United Nations cultural organisation UNESCO has warned that the World Heritage site is threatened by climate change.

The much-delayed MOSE project of flood barriers to protect Venice from high tides was begun in 2003 and is set to be completed by 2012.

earlier related report
More than 9,000 people evacuated in Albania floods
Shkodra, Albania (AFP) Dec 4, 2010 - More than 9,000 people were evacuated from their homes in Albania due to floods that have hit the country in the past week, a civil services official said here on Saturday.

"Some 14,000 hectares (34,595 acres) of farming land are still under water that has blocked and completely isolated several villages in the region of Shkodra endangering people's lives," Leonard Olli said.

Some 1,500 police and soldiers have been deployed in the northern region to help with the evacuation of residents and to secure food for them.

At least 4,597 houses have been damaged and 2,561 were completely flooded, a police report said.

Despite repeated calls from the authorities, most villagers in the Shkodra region have refused to leave their homes and abandon their cattle.

Main entrances into Shkodra are blocked while several parts of the town where the water level is higher than two meters (3.2 feet) have no electricity.

"The situation is very difficult," Albanian President Bamir Topi said in Shkodra.

Topi said he had called for help from NATO countries and talked by phone with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul who promised logistic help for flooded areas.

The authorities fear that new heavy rains could raise the water level and cause the breaking of water-gates at hydro-electric power plants, causing a disaster and endangering lives in the Shkodra region.

Heavy rains have also caused problems and major material damages in other parts of Albania.

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