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Europe flood toll rises to 26

A van becomes stopped in its tracks in the high street in Hadersdorf, Austria  

GELENDZHIK, Russia -- Rescue workers have found the bodies of 21 people killed by rushing water near the Black Sea coast, after some of Europe's worst flooding in decades turned rivers and streets into torrents.

By Friday evening the toll across central and eastern Europe was at least 26 dead, and several people were missing.

Sixteen of the dead in Russia were found in Shirokaya Balka near the city of Novorossiisk, according to Marina Ryklina, spokeswoman for the Emergency Situations Ministry, The Associated Press reported.

Nearby, a girl's body was found in the village of Abrau-Dyurso. Four people have been found dead in a second village, Dyurso, since Thursday's torrential rains.

A tornado tore through Black Sea tourist spots as floods swept away homes and cars into the sea, according to the Reuters news agency.

"There was a family stuck in a tree -- the husband, the wife and the child. The child was crying until we finally managed to bring them down," Oleg Perminov, a holidaymaker, told RTR television, Reuters reported.

"I helped recover and carry five corpses," another holidaymaker told ORT television. "I've lived in Novorossiisk for 40 years and I have never seen anything like this."

In Austria, rescuers worked to reach villagers stranded on rooftops. In the Czech Republic, a 19-year-old woman was missing after a raft carrying her and two other people overturned in a swollen river near Rokycany, 55 miles southwest of Prague.

Authorities were searching for a man whose car was swept away in a river in Kaplice, 105 miles south of Prague.

On Thursday, a 21-year-old Czech student was killed when a falling tree crushed a cottage, and about 2,000 people were evacuated from flooded homes in southern Bohemia.

Officials said on Friday a 51-year-old firefighter suffered a fatal heart attack during a rescue operation on Thursday in Tabor, 60 miles south of Prague.

Other countries hit by the downpours were Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine.

Seven villages were cut off in southern Russia and about 600 residents were left homeless after the second series of storms in two months. More than 100 people died in July.

The area has received about a month's equivalent of rain in the past 24 hours. The wet weather has cut off rail links and power, washed away bridges and damaged at least 90 homes.

Some of the deaths have been blamed on cars being swept away and damaged property, Deputy Mayor Viktor Girtsai said.

Ten people had been picked out of the water alive, two of them in grave condition.

Fire rescuer dies

Two people, including a child and an elderly man, are thought to have died in Romania following rainstorms in the southern region of Gori, adding to the seven who died last week.

Maria Nitu, who lives in the southern village of Draganesti, was quoted by Reuters as saying: "I was asleep and felt the bed was moving. I woke up and saw the water up to the edge of the bed.

"I jumped out and ran into the attic and stayed there until some people came and took me in their boat. The water was up to the ceiling."

In Bulgaria a shepherd died in thunderstorms, while livestock have died and heavy storms have sparked landslides.

The southeast of the country has been worst hit, with homes, roads, bridges and crops being damaged. Electricity and phone lines are down.

Ukraine's Emergencies Ministry said about 80 homes have been flooded after several days of heavy showers.

Austria has seen the highest level of rainfall during the past 48 hours since records began more than 100 years ago, Otto Svabik of the Austrian Central Institute of Meteorology told Reuters.

Villages along the Kamp River, a tributary of the Danube in the north of the country, were flooded.

Lower Austria's hydrological service called it the worst flooding since records were started in 1896. But water levels in the swollen Danube were falling on Friday, easing the threat of flooding in Vienna, said Christoph Langthaler, a municipal engineer.

Rescuers used helicopters and cranes to lift people from roofs where they had sought refuge from strong currents that cut off several low-lying villages in the northern Waldviertel area of Lower Austria. In the scenic Danube tourist town of Krems, flood waters turned cobblestone streets into raging rivers.

In the Kamp River valley, the Zwettler Brewery -- which was nearly wiped out in a 1959 flood -- was completely under water Friday. Employees were working to salvage its sophisticated computer technology.

Copyright 2002 CNN. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.




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