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Danube flood breaks record in Budapest, still rising


08:17, June 09, 2013

BUDAPEST, June 8 (Xinhua) -- The Danube river reached a level of 863 centimeters on Saturday afternoon, breaking the hitherto all-time high of 860 centimeters set in 2006, the Water Management Office of the Interior Ministry reported.

The river is still rising and not expected to crest until Monday at close to 9 meters. Budapest Mayor Istvan Tarlos said earlier that the city would be able to withstand a flood level of 930 centimeters without causing significant damage. In the meanwhile, the city has set up a facility on its permanent fairgrounds, able to temporarily house nearly 15,000 evacuees, should it prove necessary.

The Roman Embankment, a riverside community in northwest Budapest, is the most vulnerable section of the city. Temporary dikes have been reinforced and while leaks have been observed, the flood barriers appear to be holding. Some 200 people are on duty along this flood-line, ready to make emergency repairs if necessary.

In another development, Pest County (the county surrounding Budapest) has closed down Route 11, a major highway running adjacent to the Danube and connecting the capital city with its northern suburbs. The closure, the Pest County government reported, was to prevent crowds of disaster tourists from getting in the way of flood defense workers fighting to protect the historical town of Szentendre, just north of the capital city.

A temporary dike collapsed in Tahitothfalu, northern Szentendre, earlier on Saturday flooding 50 homes, but a secondary barrier has been reinforced and is expected to keep the flood at bay.

As of Saturday, 972 people had to be evacuated from their homes, local wire service MTI reported, adding that over 5.8 million sandbags have been used to raise flood barriers, with defenses in operation along 818.9 kilometers of riverfront.

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