Perilous Times and Climate Change
Poland hit by widespread flooding
By Jan Cienski in Warsaw
The Financial Times
Published: May 20 2010 23:23 | Last updated: May 20 2010 23:23
Swiftly rising waters swept through Warsaw, the Polish capital, on
Thursday evening, part of widespread flooding that has hit much of
central Europe, killing as many as nine people and leaving thousands
The flood on the Vistula, Poland’s largest river, is expected to peak
on Thursday night at 780cm, the highest level since the war.
Elsewhere in the region, floodwaters are starting to recede. The
Auschwitz death camp partially reopened to visitors on Thursday after
closing earlier in the week. Museum curators had moved some exhibits to
the upper floors of the brick buildings, which once housed thousands of
prisoners, to avoid the flood.
Hundreds of people in southern Poland were evacuated from their houses,
some being winched to safety by helicopter, while thousands were
The situation was similar in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary,
where rivers burst their banks and governments turned to the military
for help. At least seven people were killed in Poland, one in the Czech
Republic and one in Hungary.
Donald Tusk, Poland’s prime minister, toured the flood devastated
regions, talking with often angry people upset that not enough had been
done to save their houses. The region experienced severe floods in
1997, and again in 2001 and 2002.
The Polish government has not declared a state of emergency, as doing
so would force the postponement of presidential elections scheduled for
June 20. Poland’s constitution mandates that elections be delayed by at
least 90 days after a state of emergency.
Mr Tusk said that the government has 500m zlotys (€120m) to use to help
those affected by the floods, and will also turn to the EU for
The flood’s impact on the economy is expected to be minimal, said Piotr
Kalisz, chief economist for Citi Handlowy bank. Southern Poland is
responsible for just over a third of the country’s gross domestic
product, but even if the flood results in a 20 per cent drop in the
region’s economic activity in May, it would only translate into a 0.8
per cent drop in industrial production nationally, barely noticeable at
a time when industrial production is growing at an annual rate of 10
Poland’s economy is expected to grow by about 3 per cent in 2010.
The floods have forced short-term shutdowns of some power stations, and
a temporary halt in production at the Fiat plant in southern Poland.
There was also disruptions to the electricity supply in the Czech
Republic, where Vaclav Klaus, the free market president, said that any
state subsidies for people rebuilding their homes should not go to
those with houses in risky locations.
“I’d recommend that the money be spent on shifting [the houses] five or
10 metres up the river bank,” he said.
The Financial Times