On Tuesday, two people were killed and two others reported missing after three days of torrential downpours in central and eastern Switzerland turned Alpine streams into raging torrents and triggered flooding around the country's lakes.

It brought the confirmed death toll in Switzerland to four, after two firefighters were killed in a landslide on Sunday near Lucerne.

Floods also hit Austria, where two people have died, Bulgaria and southern Germany, hitting roads, homes, railways and tourist spots.

 

In Switzerland, roads and railways through the Alps were cut, helicopters helped evacuate mountain homes and campsites, and schools were closed in many areas, the authorities said, although water levels were later reported to be stabilising.

 

Low-lying neighbourhoods of the capital, Bern, were partly underwater after the river Aare exceeded record levels set during floods in 1999.

 

Shelter

About 2500 people, including tourists, have been granted temporary shelter in civil defence facilities or hotels in villages and towns in several areas over the past two days.

 

In Germany, flooding was worst surrounding the popular Alpine ski resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria. The town was almost completely cut off when the Partnach dam burst, turning the main road into a surging river and flooding hundreds of cellars.

"We're in a state of chaos," said Bernd Putzer, the local police spokesman in Garmisch said, adding that rescue workers were having problems getting to the area.

A German river burst its banks

All train traffic between Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the regional capital, Munich, was suspended, and more than 1000 firefighters, troops and police were sent to that area to reinforce rescue services. Emergency warnings were issued in three other parts of the state.

 

In neighbouring Austria, one person was found dead in the western region of Tyrol, apparently killed in a rockslide, and nine were injured in Vorarlberg, also in the west, including six when flood waters set off an explosion in their house for as yet unclear reasons. Two others are missing.

About 450 soldiers have been mobilised to help firefighters in the west and south of the country. In Styria, in the south, a 50-year-old woman died on Monday when her home was hit by floodwaters.

 

Waters continued to rise on Tuesday in rivers in Vorarlberg and Tyrol, after heavy rain overnight cut telephone service and made many roads undrivable.

In Bulgaria, the death toll climbed to 26 since June after torrential rains flooded the north-western region of Montana and a man was killed by lightning.

Different story

But it was a far different story in Portugal and Spain, ravaged by wildfires and the worst drought since the mid-1940s.

Nearly 3000 firefighters and soldiers battled dozens of blazes in Portugal, and police found the charred body an elderly woman near her rural home.

Firefighters and soldiers battled
blazes in Portugal

Eleven fires raged out of control in the centre and north of the country, but firefighters said that Coimbra, the nation's third-largest city, was no longer under threat from flames due to a change in wind direction. The Agriculture Ministry said most of the country faced either a "maximum" or "very high" risk of wildfires.

Portuguese forces were backed by nine firefighting planes and helicopters rushed in from five fellow European Union nations - France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands - after Lisbon appealed for help.

Police said they had detained seven people, including two minors, suspected of setting fires, raising the number of suspected arsonists held this year to 105.

In Spain's northwestern Galicia province, firefighters battled 24 blazes, including one that has burned for three days near Santiago de Compostela.

On Tuesday, the Spanish Interior Ministry said fires across the country had killed 17 people and forced the evacuation of 2786 others.