Floods – Poland holds its breath

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The railway bridge across the river Poprad. Photo Gregorz Momot.

(Click the image to see more photographs by Gregorz Momot of the destroyed bridge on polskalokalna.pl)

Continuous heavy rain in the last two weeks in May brought severe flooding to many parts of Poland. While large cities such as Krakow, Warsaw and Wroclaw held their breath as the level of swollen rivers rose ever higher, but escaped serious flooding, many smaller settlements were flooded when their flood defences were breached.

The largest built up area to be flooded was Sandomierz. The historic core of the city, built on a high escarpment on the left bank the river Vistula escaped unscathed. The modern town built on the right bank was completely engulfed and several thousand residents had to be evacuated. Only the Pilkington glass works where employees and firemen worked round the clock reinforcing flood defences was saved.

Sandomierz photographed from the ISS. The island in the middle is the Pilkington glass works.
Photo by Soichi Noguchi.

(Click on image to see original on twitpic.)

Many railway lines and roads were closed because of the floods. On the railway line between Nowy Sacz and Stary Sacz flood waters knocked two spans of a girder bridge off their concrete piers and swept them into the river. A third span fell into the river and remains supported by just one pier. The broken bridge has cut off the winter holiday resort of Krynica from the main railway network. Given the dire financial state of Polish State Railways it is doubtful whether the line will ever be reopened.

Damaged culvert on the Upper Silesian Narrow Gauge Railway. Photo GKW.

(Click to see original on GKW website.)

Poland’s preserved railways have not escaped the devastation. The Przeworsk Railway has had its track washed out in 5 places. The line’s General manager is trying to acquire some ballast and arrange the loan of a bulldozer in order to put matters right. On the Upper Silesian Narrow Gauge Railway a culvert has been damaged and the normal timetable has been suspended.

In the first week of June the weather has improved and river levels have dropped a little. But local storms have caused some further flooding. (The Poprad bridge was washed out 4 June.) The ground remains saturated with water and the high river levels have weakened many flood defences. Weather forecasts predict more storms. Poland holds its breath.

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