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Tuesday, 7 December 2010

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Flood chaos in Balkans

GERMANY: An early cold snap slowly released Europe from its icy grip Sunday after days of mayhem and dozens of deaths, but floods displaced thousands in the Balkans and chaos still hit Spanish airports.

In northern Albania, more than 11,000 people were evacuated after a week of torrential rains in the region turned roads into raging torrents of water and left some 14,000 hectares (35,000 acres) of farmland under water.

The only way in and out of the town of Shkodra was by boat or helicopter, with streets under two metres (6.5 feet) of water and Albania calling for outside help for the 1,500 police and army working around the clock. Turkey sent three helicopters and Greece two. "The situation is very difficult," Albanian President Bamir Topi said. Authorities fear that more heavy rain could raise water levels further and overwhelm water-gates at hydro-electric power plants.

In neighbouring Montenegro, the situation was still serious on Sunday in the region of Lake Skadar, on the border with Albania and around the capital Podgorica.

More than 1,000 soldiers were called to help the population. In Bosnia meanwhile, three people were killed in northern Bosnia when their home collapsed due to a landslide triggered by heavy rains, national radio reported.

Elsewhere temperatures inched higher after a week of bitterly cold weather killed more than 60 people, most of them in Central Europe. But temperatures remained below freezing point in many areas, and the deaths overnight of a man and a woman in Prague brought the number killed in the cold snap to six in the Czech capital.

In Poland, five more people died, bringing the death toll there to 36 since the beginning of the month and to 51 since the start of November.

Temperatures early Sunday fell to minus 24 Celsius (minus 11 Fahrenheit) in the south of the country.

Britain, shivering in the earliest widespread snowfalls of winter since 1993, was one of the countries worst affected with two of its major transport hubs scrapping all flights last week.

By Sunday milder weather had caused the snow to disappear completely in some areas, and the situation on the roads, railways and at airports was much improved.

But forecasters warned that temperatures would fall again this week.

Berlin, Monday, AFP

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