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Elbe River dam burst leaves at least 18 dead, thousands displaced (VIDEO)


Greepeace activists walk in the flooded water of River Danube at the Chain Bridge of Budapest downtown to protest for the climate change. The Danube is expected to peak late Sunday in Budapest close to its highest level of 860 cm at 895 cm, 35 cm higher than the record levels of 2006. Emergency services and volunteers worked through the night in Hungary as flood waters threatened towns and villages along the Danube, having already caused chaos upstream in Germany and Austria.



Thousands of Germans and Hungarians have been forced to evacuate their homes, and at least 18 are dead, after a dam on the Elbe River burst Sunday. 

About 36,000 people were evacuated across Germany's Saxony-Anhalt province, including 23,000 people from the city of Magdeburg, and 1,200 people were evacuated from Hungary as the river's levels rose 16 feet above normal to nearly 26 feet. That's well above the levels reached in Europe's devastating 2002 floods. 

"We hope that the dykes will withstand the pressure over the coming days, but we can't be 100 percent sure," said fire brigade spokesman Andreas Hamann, one of 1,200 emergency staff working to contain flooding in Germany's hardest-hit areas.

The Danube, the Elbe and the Vlatava rivers have all overflowed due to a week of heavy rains that have wreaked havoc in central and southern Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary, the Associated Press reported

"We're dealing with a national catastrophe," said Gerda Hasselfeldt, a lawmaker with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Social Union. 

Hungary's flood defenses were holding up as of Monday, though analysts predicted the damages could cost as much as 6 billion euros ($7.93 billion) to repair. 

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Budapest "should be out of danger by Wednesday," though 8,000 volunteers and specialized crews were still working to reinforce sandbag and earth barriers around the capital and in the south of the country. 

Germany's Chancellor Merkel, who is coming up for re-election, promised 100 million euros ($130 million) in government aid. 

"We'll do everything humanly possible when it comes to reconstruction. Germany is sticking together in an admirable way at the moment and it should stay like that," Merkel said.

There have also been reports of threats blow up dams on the Elbe, which Holger Stahlknecht, Saxony-Anhalt's interior minister, said were being "taken very seriously" and investigated by authorities. 

More from GlobalPost: Massive flooding sweeps through central Europe