May 25, 2010 / 4:11 PM / in 8 years

Poland earmarks cash for flood victims as deaths rise

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland has earmarked 2 billion zlotys ($590 million) from budget reserves to help victims of floods that have burst riverbanks and submerged homes, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Tuesday.

A young girl drowned while playing under a bridge on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 16 since the middle of May, Polish media reported.

River floods caused by heavy rains have forced tens of thousands from their homes in southern and central Poland, causing an estimated 2 billion euros’ worth of damage, and were moving downstream toward the Baltic Sea on Tuesday.

Warsaw remained on alert on Tuesday in case the swollen Vistula broke its banks and many schools and kindergartens were closed.

“We have to spend the assistance funds in a way that will not threaten the stability of public finances,” Tusk told a news conference. “That means we have to reallocate existing funds within the budget and not increase debt levels.”

With a presidential election looming next month, Tusk is under growing pressure from opposition parties to amend this year’s budget to boost spending on flood relief, but he insisted this was not necessary.

He said the 2 billion zlotys would come from funds originally set aside to co-finance infrastructure projects in cooperation with the European Union.

The government has already announced aid worth 6,000 zlotys ($1,770) to each household hit by the floods to provide food and clothing. The EU and Russia are providing humanitarian aid.

Tusk’s centrist government is struggling to control a budget deficit that has more than doubled to about 7 percent of national output after the global financial crisis hammered tax revenues and pushed up public spending.

This week, Tusk and the presidential candidate of his ruling Civic Platform party, Bronislaw Komorowski, have been criss-crossing Poland to show solidarity with the flood victims.

Opposition leaders have also been visiting stricken regions.

Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; editing by Gareth Jones and Andrew Roche

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