auschwitz flood 311.
(photo credit: AP)
The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum reopened parts of its grounds to visitors on Thursday after floodwaters from the nearby Vistula and Sola rivers seemed to peak and begin to recede.
Torrential rains this week have caused flooding throughout southern Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe, claiming the lives of seven and forcing thousands to evacuate their homes.
The museum has been closed since Monday, with several hundred staff members, volunteers and firefighters working frantically to shore up the flood barriers around the Auschwitz grounds and laying down thousands of sandbags along the rising banks of the two rivers. They also carried archives and historical objects, including thousands of items that belonged to victims of the death camp, to higher floors.
The present-day open-air museum is housed on the site of a network of labor and extermination camps constructed by the Nazis during World War II. It stretches over two square kilometers. Over a million people were killed at the site, most of them Jews.
According to a museum spokesman, the operation was launched due to an emergency flood alert issued by local authorities regarding the Sola River. The fears did not materialize, but the museum’s buildings were threatened by the rising waters of the Vistula River, on the western end of the site, which reached to within a few hundred meters of the grounds on Tuesday night before receding.
The Vistula, which flows from southern Poland to the Baltic, has
threatened villages and towns along its length as it burst its banks in
several locations this week.
The waters’ retreat allowed the museum to open the main camp, Auschwitz
I, to the public as of Thursday. Only parts of the Birkenau section were
opened, however, with access “limited to the area around the main gate
and the so-called ramp.”
This will remain the situation “until the flood situation stabilizes,”
the statement said.
Flooding also affected parts of Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia and the Czech
Republic, in some places wreaking havoc on local transportation and
cutting off electricity.