The European Investment Bank says it will offer loans to water-logged countries in central Europe to help repair flood damage. The announcement was made in Berlin, where German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and other European leaders met to discuss the floods that have killed more than 100 people.
In a letter to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and other European leaders, the European Investment Bank said it would offer one billion dollars in low-interest loans to affected countries, including Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
With Germany now the focus of the flooding, Chancellor Schroeder met with European Commission President Romano Prodi and leaders from Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to discuss the situation.
Insurance company Allianz has estimated the bill in Germany alone at nearly $15 billion.
The meeting in Berlin came as residents in Dresden and surrounding areas assessed the damage. "I feel horrible," explains one woman as she watches her home submerged by waters. "I have to rebuild my life from scratch again, my family and friends are helping," she adds.
Although the Elbe River has receded a bit, helicopters ferried sandbags to shore up dikes in eastern Germany. Meanwhile, workers scrambled to protect a huge chemical complex and towns such as Wittenberg, once the home of religious reformer Martin Luther.
Elsewhere in central and Eastern Europe, residents prepared for new floods. More than 20,000 people in Hungary tried to protect dikes along the Danube River but there were signs they were losing the battle.
In Budapest, the Danube is due to reach its highest level in 100 years, and several districts saw their streets turned into rivers. Police officials are having difficulties convincing people to leave their homes.
Meanwhile, rescue workers are placing sandbags around other towns north of the capital, including Visegrad. Local authorities fear the former royal center of Hungary will be swamped by water, threatening a royal palace, restaurants, hotels, and other tourist sites.
The Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe, based in Budapest, attributed the historic floods to human activity, including the cutting of trees and plants. Under communism, the environment was not a priority in countries such as Hungary and construction was allowed to take place near the Danube River. Now, people feel the consequences of this policy.