European Flood Deaths Rise To 42

The swollen river Danube floods the compound of the monastery of Weltenburg near Kelheim, southern Germany, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2005. In Germany, the Danube flooded part of the southeastern town of Kelheim, including its Weltenburg Monastery, founded in the 7th century and described as the oldest in Bavaria. The ground floor of the Benedictine monastery, which draws 500,000 visitors a year, was submerged early Thursday, said Father Benedikt, the monastery's prior. (AP Photo/Christof Stache)
Rescue workers airlifted residents from a half-submerged riverside district of the Swiss capital Thursday as large swathes of central and southern Europe remained underwater and the death toll from flooding rose to 42.

Hardest hit was Romania with 31 victims — many of whom drowned as torrents of water rushed into their homes. Austria, Bulgaria, Germany and Switzerland reported a total of 11 dead, but numbers were expected to climb as more bodies of the missing are recovered.

Across the Alps, military helicopters ferried in supplies to valleys cut off by flooding and evacuated stranded tourists and even cows isolated in mountain pastures by the rising waters.

The river Aare broke through the windows of a children's clothes shop in Bern, leaving baby strollers and toys floating in muddy water in the deserted streets of the city's Matte district, while bicycle parts were plastered across the front of a house — 4.9 feet above the ground.

"It really hits home when you see something like this," said fire service chief Franz Bachmann, who led the evacuation operation. "Lots of people have lost their whole existence."

Residents looked on in tears as water receded slowly, offering the first glimpses of streets, squares and ground floors submerged in mud. All 1,100 residents of the low-lying area have been evacuated, police spokesman Franz Maerki said.

Police kept guard to prevent people from returning, warning that deadly gushes of water could surge down from the mountains as blockages of debris and mud give way.

"As soon as this wood is gone, the water here will rise rapidly again," Bachmann said.