15 people are now said to be dead following floods caused by torrential rain in Poland.

In recent days, major rivers have swelled to levels unseen in the country in more than a century.

Flood levels on the country's largest river, the Vistula, were 'worse than expected', raising the risk that flood defences around the capital could burst, Interior Minister Jerzy Miller said.

The Vistula's flood waters and another major river, the Oder, 'are at a level unseen since 1884' and have inundated hundred of thousands of hectares, fire brigade spokesman Pawel Fratcak said.

In Warsaw, a major road running the length of the Vistula was closed to traffic today due to fears that flood defences would give way.

Around 200 schools were also closed in districts of the capital near the river.

Defences have already given way near the south-eastern town of Sandomierz and in Plock, central Poland, causing flooding in several locations in those regions.

Thousands of homes and buildings have been evacuated across the country.

However, according to Mr Fratczak thousands more have refused to leave their homes regardless of the risk posed by rising flood waters.

Rescue teams from Germany, France, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and the Czech Republic are aiding anti-flood efforts in Poland, he said.

Last week, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the cost of flood damage could reach 10 billion zloty (€2.43bn).

'The flood crest on the Vistula will last about six days,' Mr Miller said today.