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Originally published Tuesday, June 11, 2013 at 8:40 AM

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German floods could cost insurers $4 billion

Damage from the past week's flooding in Germany likely will lead to insurance claims of up to 3 billion euros ($4 billion), a credit rating agency said Tuesday as flood levels on the Elbe river in the country's north appeared to stabilize.

The Associated Press

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BERLIN —

Damage from the past week's flooding in Germany likely will lead to insurance claims of up to 3 billion euros ($4 billion), a credit rating agency said Tuesday as flood levels on the Elbe river in the country's north appeared to stabilize.

Further south, the peak of the flood on the Danube - Europe's second-longest river - moved away from the Hungarian capital, Budapest, toward Serbia.

The Elbe, the Danube and other rivers have overflowed their banks following weeks of heavy rain, causing extensive damage in Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.

Fitch Ratings said that the total cost to insurers of the floods in Germany alone is likely to total between 2.5 billion and 3 billion euros.

That's well below the expected total cost of the flood damage, which Fitch put at about 12 billion euros. It said the difference is down to the fact that many residents in flood-prone areas may have been unable to get insurance cover for natural hazards, at least at a reasonable price.

There was no immediate estimate available of the flooding's cost in the other central European countries affected.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the governors of the country's 16 states plan to discuss the aftermath of the floods at a meeting Thursday.

Waters were receding on the Danube in southern Germany, while the crest of the swollen Elbe river is now making its way through a largely rural swath of the country's northeast.

By Tuesday, flood levels in the eastern city of Magdeburg were more than 2 feet (about 70 centimeters) below their peak, and water levels further downstream were largely stable. The Interior Ministry said that German authorities have ordered more than 1.6 million unfilled sandbags from other European countries in recent days to help keep pace with their needs.

In Hungary, high flood walls saved most of Budapest from major damage. Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the high waters were expected to exit Hungary for Serbia on Thursday.

"We have ... two difficult days ahead of us," Orban said. "If we get through those, we will be close to declaring success, but it will demand two more days of intense work and attention."

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