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€7m had been spent over the past three years restoring the porcelain rooms of the 18th century Zwinger Palace in Dresden, which was totally destroyed by allied bombing during the Second World War. It is not known how much damage the floodwater has done to the building, or to the collection, which was due to reopen to the public on October 6.

Last week the Antiques Trade Gazette reported the announcement of a gala dinner at the palace on October 5 to celebrate the re-opening of the collection.

London representatives of the museum managed to contact staff on Wednesday last week and were told that the palace basement, which housed much of the collection, had been successfully cleared that morning after the river Elbe rose by eight metres overnight. Workers were busy pumping water from the palace throughout Thursday, as the floodwater continued to rise by 20cm per hour. Weather experts predicted that the floods would peak on Friday, bringing the worst deluge the city has experienced in 150 years.

The Zwinger Collection was founded by Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland (1670-1733), who had the Japanese Palace in Dresden specially designed to house his porcelain. The collection was moved to his former orangerie, the Zwinger, in 1962.