WARSAW, Poland – Flooding in southern Poland has killed at least five people, and officials closed the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial site on Tuesday to protect its Holocaust archives and artifacts.
Heavy rains that began in central Europe last weekend also are causing flooding in areas of Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, with rivers bursting their banks and inundating low-lying homes and roads, and cutting off villages.
Thousands of people have been evacuated, and electricity has been knocked out in some areas. Rail travel also was paralyzed, rendering some areas unreachable.
Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai of Hungary declared a state of emergency in the northeastern Borsod-Abauj-Zemplen county, allowing those suffering financial losses to claim compensation.
In Poland, nearly 2,000 people were evacuated from their homes and the flooding claimed two more victims Tuesday, including one of the thousands of firefighters involved in the rescue efforts. Three people were reported dead on Monday.
In Krakow, a major bridge was closed as the Vistula River nearly reached it.
At Auschwitz-Birkenau, the former Nazi death camp that draws about a million visitors a year, authorities carried historical documents and some artifacts, including brushes and bowls that belonged to victims, to the upper floors of old barracks that are used to house exhibits, said spokesman Jaroslaw Mensfelt.
Mensfelt said the memorial site was closed to visitors, the first time that has happened due to the threat of floods. Waters were rising in two nearby rivers, the Vistula and the Sola.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk traveled to the area and met with angry residents of the flooded village of Proszowki, near Krakow, who complained of receiving little help.
In Hungary, some 1,500 people were contributing to flood defense in the northeast, using 500,000 sandbags to reinforce dikes and working to contain the flooded rivers, including the Sajo, Bodva, Hernad and Berettyo.
The flooding and strong winds disrupted rail services in many parts of Hungary, while several towns in the northeast were unreachable. As of early Tuesday, more than 1,400 Hungarians had been forced to leave their homes.
The situation also was serious in the northwestern Czech Republic, where the rising waters of the Becva River flooded the town of Troubky, which was partially evacuated.
In neighboring Slovakia, the government said it would deploy up to 3,700 soldiers to help local authorities cope with flooding.
And in Serbia, President Boris Tadic toured a southern area that was badly hit by the flooding over the weekend.
Tadic pledged government help to rebuild the flood defense walls in the town of Trgoviste, where two people died on Saturday when their cottage was washed away by the floods. The situation there has stabilized since and there have been no fresh floods.