* Death toll rises to 24, more than 7,000 evacuated
* Romania to seek EU flood aid
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BUCHAREST, June 30 (Reuters) - Floods and torrential rain in Romania have killed 24 people, forced 7,000 to be evacuated from homes and damaged farmlands and infrastructure in the European Union’s second poorest country, officials said on Wednesday.
Television footage from the worst-affected north of the country showed deluged fields and damaged roads, houses still metres deep in water from swollen rivers and barefoot children scrabbling to rescue stranded animals. Dozens of villages were reported to be without power after pylons were knocked down.
Interior Minister Vasile Blaga told parliament thousands of riot police continued to enforce flood defences and aid the evacuation effort but he warned the damage would take a heavy toll on the economy, struggling to emerge from a deep recession.
"Overall losses will be bigger than 0.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) which is too much," Blaga said.
Romania had already started the process to request funds from the EU’s executive emergency fund, he said.
More than 12,000 hectares of arable land in northeastern Romania have been affected.
The weather was not expected to improve until Thursday in eastern Romania, according to the national forecaster.
"In the next 7 to 10 days, we are expecting the Danube levels to be over the records reached in 2006," said Anamaria Tanase, spokeswoman for the Apele Romane waters authority.
The agriculture ministry has yet to assess the damage to cereal crops and has so far kept its previous estimate of 6.7 million tonnes of wheat for 2010 from 2 million hectares.
Romania’s economy contracted more than 7 percent last year and spending cuts and tax increases could further crimp growth.
Bucharest now predicts a drop of between 1 and 2 percent in in GDP this year. The original estimate for this year’s GDP, in nominal terms, was 538 billion lei or around 126 billion euros.
In 2006, the Danube poured over dams and burst defences throughout central and southeastern Europe as melting snow and heavy rain raised water levels to century highs.
Extensive floods and cold snaps in 2006 damaged cereals crops on around 300,000 hectares. (Reporting by Radu Marinas and Ioana Patran; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)