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AUGUST 18, 2002

F1 blind to flood threat

Motor racing people are famously blinkered when it comes to what is happening in the real world and on Saturday in Budapest all eyes were on the Hungaroring rather than on the Danube river which was rising with each passing hour. There is no threat at all to the race track, which is out of town and at a higher elevation but the city authorities are crossing their fingers and hoping that the river will not break its banks as the waters rise to within a meter of the city's flood defenses. The mayor of Budapest Gabor Demszky said on Saturday that he is confident that these will hold and that Budapest will escape the disastrous flooding which has occurred in Germany, Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic

"Fortunately our forefathers were wise enough to plan and build these banks in very good quality in the second half of the 19th century," Demszky told the Reuters newsagency. The defenses are built to withstand 10m of water. The river is currently at 8.2m and rising. The river is estimated to peak at 8.75m late tonight.

Roads alongside the river have already been flooded causing diversions and big traffic jams in the city but the main areas of the flat Pest section of the city) are not expected to flood if the river banks hold.