HAMBURG, Germany – Firefighters fished tree trunks and other debris out of the Elbe on Friday, as Hamburg braced for floodwaters that caused catastrophic damage further upriver.
Meanwhile, the United States donated $50,000 to help finance the restoration of Dresden's baroque Zwinger palace museum as the eastern city cleans up from disastrous flooding.
As Dresden and the surrounding state of Saxony picked up the pieces, emergency workers and volunteers farther down the Elbe River in northwestern Germany appeared to be winning their battle to protect already sodden dikes against the flood wave.
Still, authorities in the northern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania ordered new evacuations as the swell headed for the river's mouth near Hamburg.
In Hamburg itself, authorities said the flood waters were expected to stay some 10 feet below the top of the dikes. However, the fire service put eight boats to work salvaging debris that could otherwise damage small vessels in the harbor.
Officers hauled about 20 tree trunks out of the fast-flowing waters overnight, and were preparing to load barges with everything from household junk to dead animals for disposal.
"The wood is just the start of it," said Bernd Horn, the leader of the operation. "If the flood wave arrives Friday evening, we could get refrigerators, barrels, even mobile homes and containers."
The death toll from the floods that have raged across central and eastern Europe rose to at least 114, after a 35-year-old driver near the east German town of Riesa died when his vehicle overturned on a flooded road.
The floods severely damaged scores of roads, rail lines, bridges, stores and private homes in Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, leaving a massive cleanup and rebuilding task estimated to cost about $19.4 billion.
The Austrian Institute of Economic Research on Friday estimated the country's flood damage at $7.3 billion.
Experts estimate the repair bill for damage to museum cellars and infrastructure in Dresden at $59 million.
In a brief ceremony at the Zwinger palace, which houses masterpieces by Rembrandt, Rubens and Canaletto among others, U.S. Ambassador Dan Coats handed Martin Roth, managing director of the state art collections, a donation of $50,000 to help restore the climate control system in the museum's porcelain section.
"I never imagined seeing things in these circumstances," said Coats, who toured the Zwinger last month.
In Saxony-Anhalt, the next state downstream, where the flood hit earlier this week, the state government said that half of the 60,000 people forced from their homes have now been allowed back.
Forty-four Russian experts with special equipment for drying flooded buildings went to work in the town of Burg, east of the state capital of Magdeburg, where Soviet troops were stationed during the Cold War.
In the Czech capital, Prague, cleanup crews carted away debris, but authorities warned it may take months before life gets back to normal in some neighborhoods in the city, where the subway remained partly submerged.