An unusually wet spring has swollen the Danube, the Elbe and several of their tributaries across Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany and Hungary, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, disrupting rail and road traffic, and causing damage that preliminary estimates have predicted will reach several billion dollars.
The authorities in Budapest had declared a state of emergency Tuesday, anticipating that the Danube’s water level would reach record highs in the north of the country. The Danube was expected to peak at 8.95 meters, or about 29 feet, Sunday night or Monday morning. That would exceed the record of 8.6 meters, set in 2006, but remain shy of the 9.3-meter height of flood walls protecting downtown Budapest.
Hungary deployed 7,000 soldiers, supported by several thousand volunteers, to reinforce dikes along the river. State television showed Prime Minister Viktor Orban at work near the city of Esztergom, north of Budapest.
“The flood is approaching the heart of the country, Budapest,” Mr. Orban told reporters Sunday. “The next two days will be decisive, because the danger will affect the place where the largest number of people live and the most valuables are at risk.”
In the eastern German city of Magdeburg, the Elbe rose faster and higher than expected. The authorities asked more than 23,000 people to leave their homes as the waters reached 7.46 meters, almost 24.5 feet, on Sunday.