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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Floods Kill 6 in Western Ukraine

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KIEV — Floods in western Ukraine have killed six people and forced tens of thousands from their homes, prompting authorities to declare the region a disaster area.

A duty officer at the Emergency Situations Ministry said Saturday that levels on the swollen Tisza River and its tributaries were receding.

But a week of flooding had damaged 27,600 houses and destroyed 911 buildings in 216 villages. Rescue teams had evacuated more than 10,000 people.

President Leonid Kuchma declared the Transcarpathian region a disaster area, Interfax Ukraine said.

Heavy rains and a rapid thaw have also caused flooding in neighboring Hungary and Romania, where authorities ordered mass evacuations.

A total of 136 houses have collapsed in Hungary's northeastern region and 30,000 people have been driven from their homes in two dozen villages. In Romania, more than 3,700 people were evacuated from their villages. Many collapsed houses were built out of mud adobe bricks.

Floodwaters were receding on the upper part of Hungary's stretch of the Tisza on Saturday. But people living alongside the mid-section of the river were still strengthening flood defenses as water levels slowly rose, Hungarian news agency MTI said.

Ukraine's Emergency Situations Ministry said people living alongside the Tisza in Ukraine were also bolstering dykes with sandbags Saturday.

"The water levels remain dangerously high and it is still too early to say when the situation will be completely resolved,'' the duty officer said.

The authorities said floods, though an annual occurrence, were particularly severe this year. Experts blame flooding on extensive felling of forests, which increases the spring runoff.

The British Broadcasting Corp. cited a Hungarian radio report as saying Thursday that Hungary will contribute money and expertise to the joint NATO-Ukraine project that aims to ensure adequate preparation for floods in the Carpathian region.

First an effective early warning flood-monitoring system will be set up in the Upper Tisza River region, then a disaster-protection system will be put in place, the report said. Half the money required will be provided by NATO's central budget, while the other half will be paid for by NATO member states.

Flooding was at its worst in Ukraine's Carpathian regions in 1998, when 10 people died and more than 24,000 were left homeless.