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Discovery of WWII bombs hampers dike-building in east Germany

August 4, 1997

FRANKFURT AN DER ODER, Germany (AP) _ Soldiers reinforcing dikes along the swollen Oder River in eastern Germany had a new hazard to deal with Monday: unexploded bombs from World War II.

Workers digging up gravel for a levee found seven small German-made bombs, a mine and several grenades in the pit near Reitwein, just north of Frankfurt an der Oder, about 50 miles east of Berlin.

Soldiers kept building the new barrier behind a crumbling section of the main dike after munitions experts removed the explosives, said Juergen Zweigert, a spokesman for the Brandenburg state Interior Ministry. No one was injured.

More than 10,000 soldiers and an army of volunteers patched small ruptures overnight along the 100-mile-long dike, and officials said the river continued its slow ebb after three weeks of flooding.

Thanks to the troops’ and volunteers’ efforts, the 250-year-old dike has withstood the rain-swollen river and protected villages on the low-lying Oderbruch plain from inundation.

``The worst has been prevented,″ army spokesman Andreas Poppel said. ``We’re holding the dike.″

The water was dropping by about a quarter- to a half-inch an hour, officials said. It needs to go down at least 5 feet before authorities can give an all-clear, allowing residents to return to their homes.

Authorities have evacuated about 13,500 people over the past 10 days.

German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe ordered the army to remain after the deluge to help with cleaning up and rebuilding. Troops trained in biological and chemical warfare will be used to help re-establish drinking water supplies and prevent epidemics.

The north-flowing Oder forms a natural border between parts of Poland and Germany. In July, the floods killed about 100 people in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Across the river from Frankfurt, residents of Slubice, Poland, were slowly returning to their homes, although officials said the danger of a dike break would remain high for another two weeks.

The city’s 15,000 residents were evacuated as a precaution last week, but radio reports said about 2,000 had returned. Slubice is between 3 and 10 feet lower than Frankfurt an der Oder.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, a 9-year-old girl drowned in floods that have destroyed bridges and inundated villages in western Ukraine near the Romanian border.

The girl died over the weekend near Ivano-Frankivsk, about 250 miles southwest of Kiev, said Emergencies Ministry spokeswoman Tatyana Pomazanova.

Last week, more than 700 people were evacuated when dozens of villages flooded in the western Ukrainian region around Lviv.

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