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Eight die in Czech floods, central Europe on alert

* Eight people die in eastern Czech floods

* Water levels have peaked though more rain could come

* Smaller flooding around region

* Vienna evacuates famous art gallery

(Adds more casualties, details from region)

PRAGUE, June 25 (Reuters) - At least eight people died in overnight flooding in the eastern Czech Republic, police said on Thursday, and rising river levels prompted flood warnings across central Europe following heavy rains this week.

The eight Czechs died near the country's border with Poland and Slovakia and rescue teams evacuated hundreds of people from wrecked houses or buildings threatened by high water.

Six people drowned near the town of Novy Jicin, 260 km (160 miles) east of Prague, and two elderly people died after medical teams could not reach them in time, a police spokeswoman said, adding there could be more casualties.

"We do not rule out other cases. We assume that as soon as the water level goes down, there could be more fatalities discovered in car wrecks or collapsed buildings hit by the flood," said spokeswoman Miroslava Michalkova-Salkova.

The government decided to deploy up to 1,000 soldiers to help rescue efforts, Prime Minister Jan Fischer said after a cabinet meeting.

The flooding is the central European country's worst natural disaster since heavy floods in 2002 during which 17 people died and water ravaged the historic centre of Prague.

In Austria, the river Danube has risen this week after some of the heaviest rainfalls in 50 years. The water level was expected to peak in Vienna on Thursday as rainfalls were ebbing away and only showers and regional thunderstorms were expected.

Vienna's Albertina Museum, home to landmark impressionist works by Monet and Renoir, started evacuating 950,000 artworks on Thursday from its leaking underground depot.

Around 13,000 police, firefighters and soldiers worked to stem the floods on Wednesday. Some villages along rivers flowing towards the Danube were cut off and cellars and roads were underwater, mainly in the region west of the Austrian capital.

Bratislava declared on Thursday a second flood alert in western Slovakia. Hungary has first or second degree alerts in place for the upper section of the Danube.

Budapest has called the highest alert for the lower section of the northwestern Raba river.

The Polish National Security Centre said rivers topped warning levels in 43 places and alarm levels in another 20. Flood alarms were introduced in parts of southern Poland.

Czech meteorologists forecast more rain into the weekend. An official at the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute said mainly smaller rivers have been affected because of the sudden heavy rains and water levels had mostly already peaked. (Reporting by Reuters bureaux in Prague, Vienna, Buudapest, Warsaw and Bratislava, writing by Jason Hovet and Peter Laca)

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