Floods force Vienna to evacuate Albertina museum

VIENNA Wed Jun 24, 2009 5:17pm BST

1 of 3. Vienna's Albertina Museum is pictured during rainfall in Vienna June 24, 2009. The Albertina Museum, home to landmark Impressionist works by Monet and Renoir, will start removing 950,000 artworks from its leaking underground depot following some of Austria's heaviest downpours in 50 years.

Credit: Reuters/Heinz-Peter Bader

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VIENNA (Reuters) - Vienna's Albertina Museum, home to landmark Impressionist works by Monet and Renoir, will start removing 950,000 artworks from its leaking underground depot following some of Austria's heaviest downpours in 50 years.

The gallery, which remains open, will start moving the works on Thursday, including pieces by Flemish painter Rubens and Italian master Michelangelo.

"There has not been any damage to the works so far," gallery spokeswoman Verena Dahlitz said on Wednesday.

One of the 200-year-old gallery's most important pieces, a delicate watercolour of a hare by Albrecht Durer from 1502, has already been saved.

The collection will be moved from central Vienna to another location in Austria and the museum does not yet know how long the operation will take.

Austria has put 10,000 soldiers on standby to cope with the flooding, which has mainly affected towns along the Danube River in northern and western Austria.

The Albertina, housed in a Neo-Classical palace which was rebuilt after World War Two bomb damage, is one of Vienna's main tourist attractions, drawing some one million visitors a year.

Apart from the rain, the museum has also been hit by the financial crisis, with donors pulling 2 million euros ($2.81 million) in sponsorship earlier this year.

(Reporting by Sylvia Westall, editing by Paul Casciato)

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