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Evacuations continue along swollen Danube

Evacuations continued Friday in flooded Bulgarian towns along the Danube River, as experts predicted the flooding would begin to recede next week.
Bulgarian civil defense officer walks on flooded street in town of Nikopol
Nikopol is among the Bulgarian towns that continued to see flooding Friday.Nikolay Doychinov / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

Evacuations continued Friday in flooded Bulgarian towns along the swollen Danube River, as experts predicted waters would begin to recede next week.

In the northwestern city of Vidin, the Danube level decreased by less than an inch overnight, but people continued to leave riverside neighborhoods. Some 2,000 people have been evacuated, and dozens of homes were under water, state news agency BTA reported.

In Nikopol, the Danube rose 2 inches to an all-time high of 29 feet, forcing more evacuations, the civil defense agency said. The city hall and most houses in the riverside area were submerged.

The four temporary dikes protecting the town of Lom have been seriously weakened by the long exposure to high water levels, local authorities said. Water was oozing through the earthen barriers, threatening to flood the nearby railway route.

Further downstream, in the city of Ruse, the Danube completely submerged the western port, forcing its closure.

Water levels were expected to begin receding next week, the government agency for research and maintenance of the Danube said.

Army troops, workers and volunteers continued, however, to bolster embankments and patch damaged dikes.

For weeks, heavy rains and melting snow have caused rivers to overflow their banks in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia-Montenegro, causing widespread flooding in many communities.

In Romania, U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Taubman said the United States would donate $250,000 to help more than 5,500 people left homeless by the floods. The money is to be allocated through the U.S. Agency for International Development, according to an embassy statement.

Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu spoke by telephone with his Bulgarian counterpart, Serghei Stanishev, to discuss coordinating flood rescue efforts. The Danube forms the natural border between the two countries.

Authorities warned of more flooding in Romania. "Waters will completely cover some communities," Interior Minister Vasile Blaga said, after an emergency meeting with top officials.

He urged people who were refusing to evacuate areas at risk to "respect what authorities are saying" and leave.

Though water levels had dropped somewhat in western river stretches, they rose in the east. The town of Ostrov saw the river rise by 2 inches in two hours Friday, putting a strain on a nearby dike.