VIDEO

Nine dead, thousands evacuated in Europe floods

PRAGUE (AFP) - Thousands were forced from their homes and at least nine people were killed as floodwaters deluged swathes of Europe on Monday, including the historic centre of the Czech capital Prague.

Shops and schools were shut and road and rail transport were disrupted across the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany following torrential rains.

The flooding caused chaos at Prague Zoo where around 1,000 animals were moved to higher ground after the Vltava river burst its banks late Sunday.

Zookeepers had to tranquillise tigers and other large animals in a dramatic overnight operation.

"It's a terrifying feeling to experience this all over again," said Petr Velensky, the zoo's reptile specialist, recalling how many animals drowned in a 2002 flood.

Czech rescue crews were searching for four more people believed to have died in floodwaters that cut power to tens of thousands of households.

The heavy rainfall has triggered nightmarish memories of the 2002 floods that killed dozens in the region including 17 in the Czech Republic alone.

The Czech government declared a state of emergency on Sunday, deploying 2,000 troops in its rescue drive as more than 7,000 people were evacuated from their homes, officials said.

A house collapse claimed two lives south of Prague, while an electrician was killed trying to switch off a transformer as a precaution, and three men drowned in rivers or drains around the country, police said.

"You realise here what nature can do. How helpless we really are despite having all our technology," Prague pensioner Helena Holubova said, watching the water rise from a bridge over the Vltava in central Prague.