341 Dead In South Africa Floods As Hunt For Survivors Widens

A car is seen submerged in water and mud following heavy rains and winds in Durban, on April 12, 2022.  RAJESH JANTILAL / AFP

 

The death toll from South Africa’s “unprecedented” floods climbed to 341 on Thursday as helicopters fanned out across the southeastern city of Durban in an increasingly desperate search for survivors.

With roads and bridges washed away by freak rainfall this week, rescuers battled to deliver supplies across the city, where some residents have been without power or water since Monday.

“The level of devastation of human life, infrastructure, and service delivery network in the province is unprecedented,” said Sihle Zikalala, the premier of KwaZulu-Natal province.

“A total number of 40,723 people have been affected. Sadly, 341 fatalities have been recorded,” he told a news conference.

At a small airport north of Durban, helicopters carried rescuers in and out. The air support was pulled from military and police, but also a fleet of volunteers, private contractors, and schools.

But one day after the rains finally subsided, fewer survivors were being found, said Travis Trower, a director for the volunteer-run organisation Rescue South Africa.

From 85 calls on Thursday, he said his teams had found only corpses.

“It’s unfortunate, but we do the best we can for as many people as we can,” he said.

The government has given no indication of how many people are missing. Zikalala predicted that the bill for damage will run into billions of rand (hundreds of millions of dollars, euros)

Appeal For Shelter 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) and Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs of South Africa, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma (R), speak to various grieving family members at the United Methodist Church of South Africa in Claremont, near Durban, on April 13, 2022 of the 4 children that passed away in the surrounding area following heavy rains and floods.(Photo by PHILL MAGAKOE / AFP)

 

 

President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared the region a state of disaster to unlock relief funds.

Authorities said they had established 17 shelters to accommodate over 2,100 displaced people.

Entering their fourth day without power or water, Durban’s poorest residents lined up on Thursday to collect water from burst pipes and dug through layers of mud to retrieve their few possessions.

There was a sense of despair amid the stench of sewage, growing stronger as the rains which wrought so much devastation stopped and the tropical heat returned.

Sporadic protests erupted in some areas over slow restoration of services and a lack of relief.

Durban’s city government appealed for patience.

“We understand the frustration and anxiety of our residents,” it said in a statement.

“We are working as quickly as we can. Our teams are hard at work to resume services. However, it may take a while to fully restore all services because of the extent of the damage to access roads.”

The government of KwaZulu-Natal province has also put out a public call for aid, urging people to donate non-perishable food, bottled water, clothes and blankets.

But many survivors said they had been left to fend for themselves.

In Amaoti, a township north of Durban, residents balanced precariously on the embankment of a collapsed road, trying to fetch clean water from a broken pipe underneath.

“We don’t have water, there is no electricity… people from (everywhere) are coming to get water,” Thabani Mgoni, 38, told AFP in the midst of the crowd.

Philisiwe Mfeka, a 78-year-old grandmother, said her water supply stopped on Tuesday.

Even water from the fractured pipe was being rationed to one bucket per person, with children, some as young as 10, coming to fetch one bucket each.

At a riverside, families washed what clothes they could recover in muddy water, amid severed pipes that poked from earth.

  Brutal Storm 

In a pitch-dark hall in Durban’s Glebelands, volunteers in a dingy apartment block used mobile phone torches to illuminate their registration of scores of displaced people overnight.

“We are just helping the people because we care,” said Mabheki Sokhela, 51, who helped organise temporary shelter at a community hall.

He urged fellow residents to shelter the victims. “There is not enough space,” he said.

Many victims slept on chairs or on cardboard on the floor.

Weather experts say apocalyptic levels of rain were dumped on the region over several days.

Some areas received more than 450 millimetres (18 inches) in 48 hours, amounting to nearly half of Durban’s annual rainfall of 1,009 mm, the national weather service said.

The South African Weather Service has issued an Easter weekend warning of thunderstorms and localised flooding in KwaZulu-Natal and neighbouring Free State and Eastern Cape provinces.

The country is still struggling to recover from the two-year-old Covid pandemic and deadly riots last year that killed more than 350 people.

AFP

At Least Five Dead In South Africa Floods, Mudslides

A general view of a flooded street following heavy rains in Pinetown, near Durban, on April 12, 2022. At least five people have been killed in floods and mudslides across South Africa’s port city of Durban following heavy rains in recent days.
Days of rains have flooded several areas and shut dozens of roads across the city
PHILL MAGAKOE / AFP

 

 

At least five people have been killed in floods and mudslides across South Africa’s port city of Durban following heavy rains in recent days, authorities said on Tuesday.

Days of rains have flooded several areas and shut dozens of roads across the city, which is popular for its idyllic beaches.

“Five deaths have been reported so far (but) we are still busy gathering information from the emergency services,” Lungi Mtshali, spokesman for the Cooperative Governance ministry, told AFP.

Video footage shared by private rescue workers and paramedics shows flooded city highways, submerged cars and collapsed houses.

The risk management department in the southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, of which Durban is the largest city, urged people to stay at home and ordered those residing in low-lying areas to move to higher ground.

Rescue operations are underway to evacuate people in areas that have “experienced mudslides, flooding and structural collapses of buildings and roads”, the department said.

“It’s an absolute nightmare. Plenty of mudslides, people passing (dying), buildings collapsed,” Garrith Jamieson, director of Durban-based ALS Paramedics services told AFP. He predicted there would be “more fatalities”.

Local media are reporting between 11 and 20 people dead but these figures have not yet been confirmed.

Malaysia Floods Displace 12,000

A man holds onto barriers as he waits to be evacuated by a rescue team in Shah Alam, Selangor on December 20, 2021, as Malaysia faces some of its worst floods for years. (Photo by Arif KARTONO / AFP)

 

The tropical Southeast Asian nation was hit by bouts of bad weather over the weekend, as continuous rain swamped towns on the peninsula’s east coast.

Malaysia often sees stormy weather at this time of year, with seasonal flooding regularly causing mass evacuations.

Official data showed 11,831 people housed in flood relief centres in the northern states of Kelantan and Terengganu as of 4.30 pm local time (GMT 0830) on Sunday.

Addressing the recent flooding, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said authorities were being mobilised to evacuate victims.

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“Many of those affected are being rescued and are taken to safer places,” he said in a Facebook post.

The Meteorological Department warned that bad weather was to continue in these states, with heavy rain also expected in much of the peninsula as well as in parts of Borneo island.

A warning was also issued for strong winds and stormy seas, particularly in the South China Sea and the northern tip of the Malacca Straits.

This recent downpour comes after heavy monsoon rains from mid-December to early January led to some of the country’s worst flooding in decades.

About 50 people were killed and 125,000 people were forced from their homes then, with authorities recording over $1.45 billion in damages.

AFP

Six Killed In Australian ‘Rain Bomb’ Floods

The overflowing Brisbane River is seen from South Bank, Australia’s Queensland state on February 27, 2022. Patrick HAMILTON / AFP

 

Flooding on Australia’s east coast claimed another life overnight, bringing the death toll from the extreme weather to six as a “rain bomb” continued to move south Sunday.

Police in the state of Queensland said a 34-year-old man had died after his car became submerged in floodwaters around 2:30 am on Sunday (1530 GMT Saturday).

While the man was able to free himself from his vehicle and tried to swim to safety, he failed to surface and his body was found a short time later.

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Huge downpours have battered eastern Australia for the better part of a week, unleashing decades-high floods, inundating homes and roads, and sweeping away cars.

Adrian Schrinner, lord mayor of Queensland’s capital city Brisbane, described the weather system as a “rain bomb above South East Queensland”.

State premier Annastacia Palaszczuk pleaded that people living in Brisbane stay home as the weather system moved south Sunday into major residential areas.

“This water is unrelenting at the moment,” she said.

With intense rain expected to continue into next week, more than 1,400 homes in Brisbane were at risk from the floodwaters, she said.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has issued flood warnings for vast swathes of Queensland and northern New South Wales, with more than 300 mm (11.8 inches) falling in some areas in the last 24 hours.

Police continue to search for a man in his 70s who fell into the Brisbane River on Friday.

AFP

Cyclone Batsirai Weakens After Hitting Madagascar, Floods Feared

A man reinforces the roof of his house with sandbags before the arrival of cyclone Batsirai expected to hit the east coast of Madagascar in the coming hours in Vatomandry on 5 February 2022. (Photo by Laure Verneau / AFP)

 

Cyclone Batsirai weakened overnight but floods were still expected due to heavy rain after it hit eastern Madagascar with strong winds, the island’s meteorological office said Sunday.

“Batsirai has weakened,” Meteo Madagascar said, adding that the cyclone’s average wind speed had almost halved to 80 kilometres per hour (50 miles per hour), while the strongest gusts had scaled back to 110 km/h from the 235 km/h recorded when it made landfall on Saturday evening.

The cyclone, the second storm to hit the large Indian Ocean island nation in just a few weeks, was moving westwards at a rate of 19 km/h, the meteorological services said.

But “localised or generalised floods are still feared following the heavy rains,” it said, adding that Batsirai should emerge at sea in the Mozambique Channel later Sunday.

Batsirai made landfall in Mananjary district, more than 530 kilometres (310 miles) southeast of the capital Antananarivo, around 8 pm local time (1700 GMT) Saturday.

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It reached the island as an “intense tropical cyclone”, packing winds of 165 kilometres per hour (102 miles per hour), Faly Aritiana Fabien of the country’s disaster management agency told AFP.

The national meteorological office has said it fears “significant and widespread damage”.

Just an hour and a half after it first hit land, nearly 27,000 people had been counted as displaced from their homes, Fabien said.

He said his office has accommodation sites, food and medical care ready for victims, as well as search and rescue plans already in place.

– ‘Very serious threat’ –

The Meteo-France weather service had earlier predicted Batsirai would present “a very serious threat” to Madagascar, after passing Mauritius and drenching the French island of La Reunion with torrential rain for two days.

In the hours before the cyclone hit, residents hunkered down in the impoverished country, still recovering from the deadly Tropical Storm Ana late last month.

In the eastern coastal town of Vatomandry, more than 200 people were crammed in one room in a Chinese-owned concrete building.

Families slept on mats or mattresses.

Community leader Thierry Louison Leaby lamented the lack of clean water after the water utility company turned off supplies ahead of the cyclone.

“People are cooking with dirty water,” he said, amid fears of a diarrhoea outbreak.

Outside plastic dishes and buckets were placed in a line to catch rainwater dripping from the corrugated roofing sheets.

“The government must absolutely help us. We have not been given anything,” he said.

Residents who chose to remain in their homes used sandbags and yellow jerrycans to buttress their roofs.

– Cyclone still ‘dangerous’ –

Other residents of Vatomandry were stockpiling supplies in preparation for the storm.

“We have been stocking up for a week, rice but also grains because with the electricity cuts we cannot keep meat or fish,” said Odette Nirina, a 65-year-old hotelier in Vatomandry.

“I have also stocked up on coal. Here we are used to cyclones,” she told AFP.

Winds of more than 50 kilometres per hour (30 miles per hour) pummelled Vatomandry on Saturday morning, accompanied by intermittent rain.

The disaster agency said the cyclone was expected to remain “dangerous” as it swept across the large island overnight and in the morning.

Flooding is expected due to excessive rainfall in the east, southeast and central regions of the country, it warned.

The United Nations was ramping up its preparedness with aid agencies, placing rescue aircraft on standby and stockpiling humanitarian supplies.

At least 131,000 people were affected by Ana across Madagascar in late January. Close to 60 people were killed, mostly in the capital Antananarivo.

That storm also hit Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, causing dozens of deaths.

The UN’s World Food Programme pointed to estimates from national authorities that some 595,000 people could be directly affected by Batsirai, and 150,000 more might be displaced due to new landslides and flooding.

The storm poses a risk to at least 4.4 million people in one way or another, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.

burs-str-sn/dl

Ten Killed By Floods In Madagascar Capital

 

At least 10 people have died in flash floods triggered by torrential rain that battered Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo overnight, an interior ministry official said Tuesday.

“The floods caused landslides and houses collapsed,” Sonia Ray, spokeswoman for the ministry’s disaster management office, told AFP.

Two people have been injured and more than 500 displaced from their homes, according to preliminary figures.

Some 20 districts are on red alert, facing “imminent danger” of flooding.

Rescue teams have been mobilised to evacuate areas at risk, gymnasiums and other temporary shelters are being prepared for the homeless and the authorities are considering closing schools.

Madagascans shared pictures on social media of inundated streets and wooden huts swept away.

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On Monday night, rainfall averaged 100 milimetres (four inches) per hour, Ray said.

The rainfall is expected to peak on Thursday but continue until the end of the month.

The country’s wet-season woes are not yet over.

Weather forecaster Lovandrainy Ratovoharisoa said a cyclone was expected to strike the island’s east coast at the end of the month.

Two years ago heavy rainfall claimed the lives of 26 people dead, while 15 went missing and 90,000 were affected.

24,000 Evacuated, Two Dead In Indonesian Floods

This aerial picture shows inundated buildings including a mosque during flooding in Lhoksukon, North Aceh on January 3, 2022. (Photo by ZIKRI MAULANA / AFP)

 

About 24,000 people have been evacuated and two children killed in floods on Indonesia’s Sumatra island, officials said Tuesday, with environmental campaigners blaming deforestation for worsening the disaster.

Torrential rains have hammered the island for days, causing rivers to burst their banks and sending water levels surging in residential areas, the national disaster agency said.

“We experience flooding at least five to eight times a year — but (this) is one of the most severe,” said Muzakkir, from Pirak Timur in hard-hit Aceh province, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

Syarifuddin, from the village of Lhok Sukon in Aceh, said the “floodwaters just kept rising — at my house, they are up to my chest”.

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The province is where the evacuations and deaths have occurred, as well as some buildings been destroyed by fast-moving floodwaters and agricultural land damaged.

Jambi province on Sumatra was also hard hit, with many homes flooded.

Environmental NGO Walhi said the flooding was worsened by deforestation to make way for Sumatra’s expansive palm oil plantations.

 

This aerial picture shows inundated vehicles during flooding in Lhoksukon, North Aceh on January 4, 2022. (Photo by ZIKRI MAULANA / AFP)

 

Trees act as natural defences against floods, slowing the rate at which water runs down hills and into rivers.

Logging on higher ground was having a particularly damaging impact in Aceh, said Ahmad Shalihin from Walhi.

Neighbouring Malaysia has also been hard hit by flooding since last month, and thousands more people have been forced to flee their homes in recent days amid new downpours.

The number of people evacuated to government shelters stood at around 13,000 on Tuesday, with the states of Johor, Malacca and Sabah the worst affected.

But the numbers have fallen considerably from a peak of around 70,000 in mid-December, when Malaysia saw its worst floods for years.

About 50 people have been killed so far in the floods nationwide, according to police.

Flooding and landslides are common in both Southeast Asian countries during the months-long rainy season.

14 Dead As Floods Displace 70,000 In Malaysia


Rescue officials evacuate people in a boat in Shah Alam, Selangor on December 20, 2021, as Malaysia faces some of its worst floods for years. Arif KARTONO / AFP

 

The Malaysian military used boats Tuesday to distribute food to desperate people trapped in their homes after massive floods, as the death toll rose to 14 with over 70,000 displaced. 

Days of torrential rain triggered some of the worst flooding in years across the country at the weekend, swamping cities and villages and cutting off major roads.

Selangor — the country’s wealthiest and most densely populated state, encircling the capital Kuala Lumpur — is one of the worst-hit areas.

In the city of Shah Alam, some areas were still under water Tuesday and military personnel in boats distributed food to people stuck in their homes and government shelters.

Kartik Subramany fled his house as floodwaters rose, and took refuge in a school for 48 hours before being evacuated with his family to a shelter.

“My house is totally damaged, my two cars are wrecked,” the 29-year-old told AFP.

“These are the worst floods of my entire life. The federal government has failed the people miserably — it has failed in its primary function to protect and safeguard lives.”

He is among a growing number criticising what they say is a slow and inadequate official response.

Thousands of emergency service and military personnel have been mobilised, but critics say it is not enough and volunteers have stepped in to provide food and boats for the rescue effort.

There have also been reports of supermarkets being looted in one hard-hit Shah Alam neighbourhood.

READ ALSO: More Than 100 Dead In Philippines Typhoon, Says Officials

 ‘Hopeless’ Official Response 


Rescue officials evacuate people in a boat in Shah Alam, Selangor on December 20, 2021, as Malaysia faces some of its worst floods for years. Arif KARTONO / AFP

 

Opposition MP Fuziah Salleh described the official response as “hopeless” and “incompetent”.

“No early warning of the torrential rain was given,” she told AFP. “It is so sad lives have been lost.”

On Tuesday, the death toll from the floods rose to 14, including eight in Selangor and six in the eastern state of Pahang, official news agency Bernama reported.

But with reports of people still missing, it is expected to increase.

More than 71,000 people have been forced from their homes due to the floods, including 41,000 in Pahang and 26,000 in Selangor, according to official data.

Evacuees are being housed in government relief centres but officials have warned to expect a rise in coronavirus cases linked to the crowded shelters.

The rain has stopped and in many areas floodwaters have receded, leaving residents to count the cost.

“I’ve been doing business for more than 24 years… this has never happened before,” said Mohammad Awal, whose cosmetic shop outside Kuala Lumpur was flooded.

The Southeast Asian nation is hit by floods annually during the monsoon season, but those at the weekend were the worst since 2014 when over 100,000 people were forced from their homes.

Global warming has been linked to worsening floods. Because a warmer atmosphere holds more water, climate change increases the risk and intensity of flooding from extreme rainfall.

AFP

Floods, Landslides Kill 116 In India And Nepal

People wade through a flooded road in front of a teaching hospital after heavy rains in Biratnagar on October 20, 2021, as the death toll from days of flooding and landslides in India and Nepal crossed 100. PHOTO: Lila Ballav Ghimire / AFP

 

More than 100 people have died following several days of massive flooding and landslides in India and Nepal, officials said Wednesday, with scores more missing.

In Uttarakhand in northern India, officials said that 46 people had died in recent days with 11 missing. In Kerala in the south chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the death toll had hit 39 there.

At least 30 of those in Uttarakhand were killed in seven separate incidents in the Nainital region early Tuesday, after cloudbursts — an ultra-intense deluge of rain — triggered a series of landslides and destroyed several structures.

Commuters wade through a flooded national highway after river Kosi overflowed following heavy rains near Rampur in India’s Uttar Pradesh state on October 20, 2021, as the death toll from days of flooding and landslides in India and Nepal crossed 100. PHOTO: AFP

 

Five of the dead were from a single-family whose house was buried by a massive landslide, local official Pradeep Jain told AFP.

In Nepal, disasters management division official Humkala Pandey said: “In the last three days, there have been 31 deaths from floods and landslides triggered by heavy post-monsoon rainfalls across the country. Forty-three people are missing.”

He added: “It’s still raining in many places. We are still compiling data from the field. The death toll could go up further.”

AFP

Thousands Evacuated As Floods Hit Northern China

This photo taken on October 10, 2021, shows a man walking in a flooded area after heavy rainfalls in Jiexiu, in Jinzhong city, China’s northern Shanxi province.
STR / AFP

 

More than 120,000 people have been evacuated, coal mines shut and crops destroyed after unseasonably heavy rainfall flooded north China’s Shanxi province over the weekend, state media reported Monday, with more rain forecast.

The deluge comes just months after record floods hit the country’s central Henan province in July — killing more than 300 people — and raises fears about ensuring the supply of energy ahead of the winter.

Many parts of Shanxi, a landlocked province that generally has dry weather, saw record-breaking rainfall over the past week, according to the provincial government, which ordered coal mines to take flood-proofing measures and make emergency plans to be “activated immediately in case of grave danger”.

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At least 60 coal mines in the province — one of China’s top coal-producing regions — have suspended operations due to the floods, according to a local government statement, even as the country faces a power supply crunch.

This photo taken on October 10, 2021 shows rescuers drawing water at a flooded area after heavy rainfalls in Jiexiu, in Jinzhong city, China’s northern Shanxi province.
STR / AFP

 

Beijing recently ordered coal mines to spare no costs to increase production and ensure supply, as well as said it will allow higher electricity prices in a bid to boost generation. Analysts have warned the move could add to inflation concerns.

China has been hit by widespread power cuts amid record coal prices, state electricity price controls, and tough emissions targets that have squeezed the power supply.

More than 1.75 million residents have so far been affected by the floods in Shanxi, which state news agency Xinhua reported had received more than three times the average monthly rainfall for October in just five days last week.

An estimated 190,000 hectares of crops were destroyed and 17,000 buildings were reduced to rubble, the local Communist Party newspaper Shanxi Evening News reported.

Shanxi’s meteorological bureau said Sunday there would be more rain in the coming days, urging farmers to “rush to harvest when the weather is clear”.

Authorities have not yet published a death toll.

Video footage published by the Shanxi Evening News showed rescuers wading through murky waters and floating on rafts down flooded urban streets.

Meanwhile, state broadcaster CCTV showed workers repairing a broken dam, and railway tracks left suspended over water after part of the bridge they were on collapsed.

Europe Reels From Worst Floods In Years As Death Toll Nears 130

A picture taken on July 15, 2021, shows cars piled up by the water at a roundabout in the Belgian city of Verviers, after heavy rains and floods lashed western Europe, killing at least two people in Belgium. François WALSCHAERTS / AFP

 

 

Devastating floods have torn through entire villages and killed at least 128 people in Europe, most of them in western Germany where stunned emergency services were still combing the wreckage on Friday.

Unsuspecting residents were caught completely off guard by the torrent dubbed the “flood of death” by German newspaper Bild.

Streets and houses were submerged by water in some areas, while cars were left overturned on soaked streets after flood waters passed. Some districts were completely cut off.

“Everything was underwater within 15 minutes,” Agron Berischa, a 21-year-old decorator from Bad Neuenahr in Rhineland-Palatinate state, told AFP.

“Our flat, our office, our neighbours’ houses, everywhere was underwater.”

Europe Reels From Worst Floods In Years As Death Toll Nears 130
A man takes pictures of cars and rubble piled up in a street after the floods caused major damage in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, western Germany, on July 16, 2021.
Christof STACHE / AFP

 

 

In nearby Schuld, Hans-Dieter Vrancken, 65, said “caravans, cars were washed away, trees were uprooted, houses were knocked down”.

“We have lived here in Schuld for over 20 years and we have never experienced anything like it. It’s like a warzone,” he said.

Roger Lewentz, interior minister for Rheinland-Palatinate, told Bild the death toll was likely to rise as emergency services continued to search the affected areas over the coming days.

“When emptying cellars or pumping out cellars, we keep coming across people who have lost their lives in these floods,” he said.

With five more dead found in the state by Friday evening, the nationwide death toll mounted to 108.

Adding to the devastation, several more people were feared dead in a landslide in the town of Erftstadt in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) triggered by the floods.

In neighbouring Belgium, the government confirmed the death toll had jumped to 20 — earlier reports had said 23 dead — with more than 21,000 people left without electricity in one region.

Calling the floods “possibly the most catastrophic our country has ever seen,” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo declared Tuesday a day of national mourning.

Luxembourg and the Netherlands were also hammered by heavy rains, inundating many areas and forcing thousands to be evacuated in the city of Maastricht.

People stand in a devastated street in an area completely destroyed by the flood in the Blessem district of Erftstadt, western Germany, on July 16, 2021. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)

Fearing the worst

In Germany’s hard-hit Ahrweiler district in Rhineland-Palatinate, several houses collapsed completely, drawing comparisons to the aftermath of a tsunami.

At least 24 people were confirmed dead in Euskirchen, one of the worst-affected towns.

“I fear that we will only see the full extent of the disaster in the coming days,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said late Thursday from Washington, where she met with President Joe Biden.

“My empathy and my heart go out to all of those who in this catastrophe lost their loved ones, or who are still worrying about the fate of people still missing.”

In Ahrweiler, around 1,300 people were unaccounted for, although local authorities told Bild the high number was likely due to damaged phone networks.

Lewentz told local media that up to 60 people were believed to be missing, “and when you haven’t heard from people for such a long time… you have to fear the worst”.

Soldiers of the German armed forces Bundeswehr search for flood victims in submerged vehicles on the federal highway B265 in Erftstadt, western Germany, on July 17, 2021 (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)

Billions in damage

Gerd Landsberg, head of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities, said the cost of the damage was likely to run into “billions of euros”.

In Belgium, the army has been sent to four of the country’s 10 provinces to help with rescue and evacuations.

The swollen Meuse river “is going to look very dangerous for Liege”, a nearby city of 200,000 people, warned Wallonia regional president Elio Di Rupo.

In Switzerland, lakes and rivers were also swelling after heavy overnight rainfall. In Lucerne in particular, Lake Lucerne had begun to flood the city centre.

Some parts of western Europe received up to two months’ worth of rainfall in two days on soil that was already near saturation, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

But there was some improvement Friday as the water level began to fall back.

Aerial view taken on July 15, 2021 shows the flooded village of Schuld, near Adenau, western Germany. Christoph Reichwein / dpa / AFP

Climate change?

The severe storms have put climate change back at the centre of Germany’s election campaign ahead of a September 26 poll marking the end of Merkel’s 16 years in power.

Speaking in Berlin, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Germany would “only be able to curb extreme weather situations if we engage in a determined fight against climate change”.

The country “must prepare much better” in future, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said, adding that “this extreme weather is a consequence of climate change”.

Because a warmer atmosphere holds more water, climate change increases the risk and intensity of flooding from extreme rainfall.

In urban areas with poor drainage and buildings located in flood zones, the damage can be severe.

North Rhine-Westphalia premier Armin Laschet, the conservative running to succeed Merkel, called for “speeding up” global efforts to fight climate change, underlining the link between global warming and extreme weather.

AFP

UPDATED: At Least 42 Dead In Germany As Storms Ravage Europe

An Opel Astra car is covered in rubble after heavy rain and floods in Hagen, western Germany, on July 15, 2021. Heavy rains and floods lashing western Europe have killed at least 42 people in Germany and left many more missing, as rising waters led several houses to collapse.
INA FASSBENDER / AFP

 

Heavy rains and floods lashing western Europe have killed at least 42 people in Germany and left many more missing, as rising waters led several houses to collapse on Thursday.

Unusually heavy rains also inundated neighbouring Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium, where at least four people were reported dead.

Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) states were the worst hit in Germany by the deluge, which has caused rivers to burst their banks and threatens to bring down more homes.

At least 18 bodies were recovered in the region around the western town of Ahrweiler alone, a police spokesman told AFP. Local officials had earlier reported up to 70 people missing.

Farther north, the district of Euskirchen in NRW reported 15 dead.

Desperate residents sought refuge on the roofs of their homes as helicopters circled above to rescue them from the rising waters.

Pensioner Annemarie Mueller, 65, looking out at her flooded garden and garage from her balcony, said her town of Mayen had been completely unprepared for the destruction.

“Where did all this rain come from? It’s crazy,” she told AFP.

“It made such a loud noise and given how fast it came down we thought it would break the door down.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “shocked” by the devastation and thanked the “tireless volunteers and emergency service workers” at the scene.

NRW leader Armin Laschet, who is running to succeed Merkel in September elections, cancelled a party meeting in Bavaria to survey the damage in his state, Germany’s most populous.

“We will stand by the towns and people who’ve been affected,” Laschet, clad in rubber boots, told reporters in the town of Hagen.

 

 ‘Go to higher floors’

A man walks through the floods towards destroyed houses in Schuld near Bad Neuenahr, western Germany, on July 15, 2021. Heavy rains and floods lashing western Europe have killed at least 42 people in Germany and left many more missing, as rising waters led several houses to collapse. Bernd LAUTER / AFP

 

Four of the dead were in the municipality of Schuld south of Bonn where six houses were swept away by floods, a police spokesman in the city of Koblenz said.

Several other bodies were recovered from flooded cellars across the region.

The environment ministry in Rhineland-Palatinate warned it expected floodwaters on the Rhine and Moselle rivers to rise with more rainfall.

In NRW alone, 135,000 households were without power.

Emergency workers struggled to evacuate people in endangered buildings and two firemen were killed Wednesday in the line of duty in the towns of Altena and Werdohl.

Police set up a crisis hotline for reporting missing loved ones and residents were asked to send in videos and photos that could help them in the search.

Regional official Juergen Pfoehler urged people to stay home “and, if possible, go to higher floors” of their houses.

The German military deployed some 400 soldiers across the two affected states to assist in rescue efforts.

In the city of Leverkusen, a power outage triggered by the storms led to the evacuation of a hospital with 468 patients.

City authorities reported that after intensive care patients were moved to other facilities overnight, the other wards would have to be cleared in the course of the day.

 

 ‘Rarely experienced’

Aerial video grab view taken on July 15, 2021, from a video footage shows flooded properties, houses and landscapes after heavy rainfall and floods in Kesseling near Bad Neuenahr, western Germany, Ferdinand MERZBACH / NEWS5 / AFP

 

Belgium has also seen several days of heavy rain that has caused rivers in the French-speaking region of Wallonia to burst their banks. Four were reported dead.

The provinces of Liege and Namur were especially affected, with the resort town of Spa completely flooded. In the town of Chaudfontaine, daily Le Soir reported that nearly 1,800 people had to evacuate.

The country’s Infrabel rail network said it was suspending services in the southern half of the country, given the risks to travel.

The southern Dutch province of Limburg, which is bordered by Germany and Belgium, also reported widespread damage with rising waters threatening to cut off the small city of Valkenburg west of Maastricht.

Local news footage showed small rivers of water flowing through the scenic city centre’s streets and at least one old age home had been evacuated.

Officials also closed off several roads including the busy A2 highway, while fears remained that water from heavy rains in Germany and Belgium would push up river levels as it reached the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, the Luxembourg government set up a crisis cell to respond to emergencies triggered by heavy rains overnight as Prime Minister Xavier Bettel reported “several homes” had been flooded and were “no longer inhabitable”.

-AFP