BISTRET, Romania – Thousands of residents have been evacuated from two Danube villages in western Romania and thousands more are under threat as the river hit near-record levels in Romania and Bulgaria Tuesday.
More than 3,000 people were evacuated from the village of Rast after a dike collapsed Sunday, while some 400 people were forced to leave their homes in nearby Negoi.
Authorities said more than 600 houses in Rast were flooded, with 115 collapsing. In Negoi, some 150 houses were flooded. A major road was also under water, and hundreds of rescue workers and volunteers were working to repair the dike and help local residents.
In the nearby Danube community of Bistret, hundreds of rescue workers scrambled to repair a dike which cracked early Tuesday under the weight of the waters. Army rescue workers used trucks, and villagers used horse-drawn carts to pile up sandbags against the dike. Thousands faced the prospect of having to leave their homes.
"We are the victims of authorities who have been telling us for three days that everything is under control. Villagers are afraid and want to escape, but I sold my house to move here and I have nowhere to go. I am sure the dike is going to break. We are at God's mercy," said local resident Mariana Stanciu, 53, standing at the dike.
A total of 5,000 people have been evacuated from flooded areas, with some 120 localities and almost 100,000 acres of land flooded, hundreds of miles of riverbanks under water and 18 bridges destroyed by floodwaters, Interior Minister Vasile Blaga said, adding he would travel to the worst stricken areas later Tuesday.
In Romania's eastern port of Galati, waters surged to more than 19.7 feet just below the record of 21 feet in 1897.
Spring melting of snow together with heavy rains has led to floods throughout southeastern Europe in the past few weeks.
The Danube — Europe's second-longest river — was flowing at a record 558,000 cubic feet per second, or double the average for this time of year, Romania's Environment and Water Management Ministry said Monday.
The Danube was receding Tuesday in Serbia where after having caused extensive damage to homes and farmland.
Thousands of workers, residents, volunteers and army soldiers were still guarding the embankments and piling up more sandbags to prevent further floods.
Medical teams and sanitation inspectors fanned out across the flooded areas to watch for possible cases of infectious diseases.
"In every flooded area, mobile teams are checking condition, taking samples. ... All clinics and hospitals are on alert for possible cases of diarrhea or hepatitis A," said Snezana Milivojevic of Belgrade's Institution for Health Protection.
Officials also warned that although water levels were receding in some areas no residents would be allowed back in before a thorough cleanup and disinfection.