The Hungarian government announced a state of emergency Monday after rain and melting snow swelled rivers and flooded towns across Central Europe. There were at least six reported deaths, and thousands of homes had to be evacuated.
As in some neighboring countries, residents in Hungary's capital, Budapest, are working around the clock to fill sand bags in a desperate fight against the rising water of the Danube River.
Of particular concern to authorities is Budapest's Margaret Island, a popular tourist spot, famous for its thermal baths, medical treatment and luxury hotels.
Some low-lying places in downtown Budapest are already under water. Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurscany calls the situation in the capital and across the country serious, and says the government is monitoring the situation closely.
"We have set up a special government coordination committee to continuously monitor the water levels to see how high the river will rise." Mr. Gyurcsany said. On Monday, he declared a state of emergency.
The government's efforts to keep the rivers from spilling over came too late for dozens of flooded towns and villages, including Dunaszentpal, near the border with Slovakia. This elderly villager, Gyorgy Goldstein, says he fears his house will collapse.
He says he is very nervous. He adds, "My house saw already three floods since the 1960s. So, it will be flood Number Four. I don't think my house is strong enough" to survive this flood"
In Romania, to the east, and Slovakia and the Czech Republic, to the north, populations in low-lying areas have been put on alert. In the Czech Republic, several people have died, and anti-flood barriers on the river Vltava have been raised.
Czech officials have declared a state of emergency in several areas, and in the historic city of Olomouc, 250 kilometers east of Prague, thousands of people had to be evacuated.
In nearby Austria, the Danube remained closed for shipping Sunday. In Hungary, the Danube is expected to crest at nine meters, breaking a record set in 2002. Heavy rains and melting snow are being blamed for the floods.