BUCHAREST, May 2 (Reuters) The Red Cross warned today that weeks of flooding around the Danube river could worsen and posed a disease risk, although hundreds of Romanians returned home overnight after fleeing flooded villages.
Romanian authorities said Europe's second-longest river threatened to crack waterlogged dikes despite water levels having retreated from record highs over the past week after the country's worst floods in more than a century.
In Geneva, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the world's largest relief agency, said the situation in the Danube delta region was expected to continue to deteriorate.
''We are particularly concerned about the bad sanitary conditions and the possible spread of disease, both for people living in makeshift camps and for others still living in villages where latrines, wells and water networks are flooded out,'' said Anja Toivola, head of its European department.
The federation appealed for 2.4 million Swiss francs (2 million dollars) to help thousands of Romanians made homeless.
Romanian officials have warned some earth-made dikes may no longer bear the heightened water pressure.
''We expect pressure on dikes to remain high for the next two weeks as water volumes should increase again this weekend,'' said Adrian Apostol, hydrologist from the Romanian National Hydrology Institute.
The interior ministry said the number of evacuees dropped to 14,120 from roughly 16,000 yesterday as some people went home as waters receded.
''Around 400 people, whose houses have not been so badly damaged, came back in the village of Spantov,'' Calarasi county deputy prefect Cornel Coman told Reuters. ''We hope another 200 will return tomorrow if the water level falls.'' ARMY TENTS Some 1,470 villagers from Spantov are still staying with their relatives in nearby settlements or in army tents on higher ground.
Around 400 houses in the village were seriously damaged after a nearby dike gave way to swollen waterways last week.
The authorities today broke dikes near the impoverished southern villages of Bistret and Chiselet close to Bulgarian borders to prevent the Danube from flooding more households.
The Danube poured over dams and burst defences throughout eastern Europe over past weeks as melting snow and heavy rains raised water levels, flooding large swathes of land.
In neighbouring Bulgaria, civil defence drained water and disinfected some 60 flooded houses and administrative buildings in the town of Nikopol, home to 4,000 people.
People and local authorities in the towns and villages along the Danube are cleaning up the mud and dirt in the areas where the waters have withdrawn and civil defence units are disinfecting the areas to avoid spreading of diseases.
REUTERS SI RN2156