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Thousands flee flooding River Elbe

Thousands of homes have been evacuated along Germany's River Elbe after waters threatened to break through levees protecting several towns.

Around 8,000 people left their houses in the Saxony-Anhalt town of Stendal.

The flooding in Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary has claimed at least 22 lives so far.

A few miles upstream from Stendal, helicopters flew sandbags in to close a breach in a levee through which waters were streaming into the town of Fischbeck.

In neighbouring Schleswig-Holstein state the old quarter of Lauenburg near Hamburg was evacuated due to the rising waters of the Elbe.

In southern Germany waters were receding and authorities began debating how to pay for the flood damage, estimated at more than E11 billion (£9.4 billion).

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