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Romanian death toll reaches 24

The death toll in Romania has risen to 24 after torrential rain in recent days caused widespread flooding, forcing around 7,000 people to be evacuated from their homes.

Most of the victims drowned although several were struck by lightning.

The north-east of the country has been worst affected, especially Suceava and Botosani Counties, which Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc visited in the immediate aftermath.

Television footage from the region showed fields turned into lakes, damaged roads, houses still metres deep in water from the swollen rivers and people scrambling around to rescue stranded animals.

Just across the border in Ukraine, many western and central regions were also affected by the heavy rain and so far two women have been killed with others missing.

Here, more than 5,000 homes were submerged, while 11 railway bridges were swept away or damaged. The rail link between Ukraine and Romania has also been closed after landslides in the region.

In Romania, the widespread destruction of arable land affected more than 12,000 hectares of crop. Infrastructure in the area has also been damaged.

The crop damage and damage to infrastructure led to the Romanian government asking for emergency aid from the European Union to help the situation in Europe’s second poorest country.

Interior Minister Vasile Blaga told Parliament that thousands of riot police continued to enforce flood defences and aid in the evacuation effort but he warned the damage would take a heavy toll on the economy which is struggling to emerge from a deep recession.

Mr Blaga also suggested that “overall losses will be bigger than 0.6% of GDP which is too much”. Romania’s economy contracted more than 7% last year and spending cuts and tax increases could further cripple growth. Bucharest now predicts a further drop of between 1 and 2% in GDP this year.

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