Rivers Recede but Europe Awaits More Rain

THE waters from Europe's worst flooding in 60 years are receding all along the Rhine River, leaving behind a layer of mud.

Tens of thousands of homeowners and shopkeepers in Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands spent yesterday cleaning up. They pumped out flooded basements and hosed down walls, furniture, and floors to clear off the silt that the roaring river left behind.

Belgian authorities said at least a week of precipitation-free weather was needed for river levels to return to normal. But forecasters were predicting more wet weather.

For many flood-affected property owners in Germany and the Netherlands the floods are not just emotionally traumatizing, but financial catastrophes as well. Flood insurance is difficult to obtain in both nations.

Local governments and charitable organizations in Germany have announced efforts to help property owners bear the costs of cleanup and rebuilding efforts.

Officials are still estimating the damage. But Dutch authorities are figuring flood costs could run as high as $50 million in the Netherlands alone. The cleanup in many cities has been hampered by curiosity seekers - many with cameras and video recorders in hand -

who wander around affected areas looking at the destruction, officials complain.

At least seven fatalities have been attributed to the flood, four in Germany, two in France, and one in Belgium. The inundation also caused environmental damage. For example, in Cologne, Germany's fourth-largest city, more than 2,000 gallons of heating oil were released into the Rhine.

The Rhine crested over the weekend between Cologne and the German capital of Bonn. At least 60,000 out of Cologne's 1 million residents suffered from flood damage, officials estimated.

Farther down-river, in the Netherlands, water levels of the Rhine and its tributaries were still high - cresting at 54 feet above sea level, or 21 feet above the seasonal norm - but authorities proclaimed the worst to be over.

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