At least 47 people have died and dozens more are missing on July 15 in western Germany after unseasonal heavy rains brought severe flooding to the region.
Devastating floods swept across a swath of Europe on Thursday, killing at least 47 people in Germany and Belgium and leaving dozens more missing after buildings collapsed, cars were swept away and helicopters were mobilized for rescues amid torrential rainfall.
At least 42 people died in Germany, by far the worst-hit country, as rivers burst their banks, buildings collapsed and whole districts were cut off from rescuers. Others were evacuated over fears dams would give way with more rainfall forecast later this week.
Four more people were killed in the Belgian city of Verviers, prompting prime minister to appeal for international aid. Severe flooding also impacted the Netherlands and Luxembourg, with warnings also issued in France.
“It is a catastrophe, there is no other way to put it,” Malu Dreyer, the premier of Rhineland Palatinate, one of the German states most devastated by flooding, said in a speech to the local parliament. “Entire villages are flooded,” she said. “Houses float away just like that.”
Police said at least 18 people died in the district of Ahrweiler in Rhineland-Palatinate from flooding on the river Ahr, a tributary of the Rhine. Earlier in the day, the local police had said that as many as 50 residents were trapped on the roofs of their homes awaiting rescue.
Videos showed city streets turned into swirling rivers and others engulfed by landslides.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is due to meet President Biden in Washington later Thursday, said she was “shocked” at scenes from flooded areas and offered sympathy to the families of those dead and missing.
Police created a hotline for residents to report those missing. “The consequences are devastating, and our first priority is still to save lives,” Jürgen Pföhler, the county commissioner of the Ahrweiler district said at a news conference. “All our efforts are concentrated on that.”
In neighboring North Rhine-Westfalia state, the army deployed tanks and trucks to the city of Hagen to clear roads of rubble and debris. Three bridges were destroyed, according to police.
Emergency responders in the city of Solingen rescued about 130 people. “We got people out with aerial ladders, boats, buoys. It was all improvised,” a spokesman for the fire department told German news channel WDR.
Two firefighters sent to assist those trapped by rising waters in the Sauerland region died this week.
The country’s biggest power distribution company, Westnetz, estimated Thursday that around 200,000 homes were without electricity as a result of the widespread flooding.
On Wednesday, the German weather service issued an extreme weather alert — a warning that environmental expert Bernd Mehlig said was “completely unusual in summer.”
Parts of the Netherlands were also flooded, with a red code warning issued for Limburg province. Local media reported that many had been forced to evacuate and as many as 400 homes were without power.
Earlier this week in Britain, flash floods sparked widespread travel chaos, with parts of London experiencing a month’s worth of rain in just one day. Locals were evacuated and cars became trapped as floodwaters continued to rise.
Switzerland also issued travel and weather warnings this week as heavy rainfall and thunderstorms brought flooding to the city of Zurich.
So yes, living in Bern, Switzerland, I can tell you I have never experienced such a deluge in my entire life. This is apocalyptic! [TWP]
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