Germany Floods Death Toll Hits 169

A car lies in the middle of Mud and debris in Dernau, Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany, on July 19, 2021, after devastating floods hit the region. T
Jean-Philippe LACOUR / AFP

 

The death toll from devastating floods in Germany reached 169 on Tuesday, local officials said, bringing the total number of deaths in Europe to at least 200.

A total of 121 people are now confirmed to have died in Rhineland-Palatinate, emergency services spokesman Aaron Klein told AFP, up from the previous total of 117 in the western German state

More to follow . . .

93 Dead, Hundreds Missing In Huge Floods In Germany And Belgium

An aerial view taken on on July 14, 2021 shows a flooded intersection in Hagen, western Germany, after heavy rain hit parts of the country, causing widespread flooding. INA FASSBENDER / AFP

 

The death toll from devastating floods in Europe soared to at least 93 Friday, most of them in western Germany, where emergency responders were searching for hundreds of missing people.

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

Catching residents of several regions unaware and leaving destruction and despair in their wake, the masses of water were dubbed the “flood of death” by Germany’s top-selling daily Bild.

Authorities in Rhineland-Palatinate said 50 people have died in the western state, bringing the national toll to at least 81.

Neighbouring Belgium counted at least 12 dead, and more than 21,000 people were without electricity in the Wallonia region.

Luxembourg and the Netherlands were also severely affected by the torrents of water, with thousands evacuated in the city of Maastricht.

But Germany’s toll was by far the highest, and likely to rise with large numbers of people still missing in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, the hardest-hit states.

In the devastated Ahrweiler district of Rhineland-Palatinate around 1,300 people were unaccounted for, although local authorities told Bild the high number was likely down to damaged phone networks.

Regional interior minister Roger Lewentz told broadcaster SWR that “we believe there are still 40, 50 or 60 people missing, and when you haven’t heard for people for such a long time… you have to fear the worst.”

“The number of victims will likely keep rising in the coming days,” he added.

 ‘Disaster’

A man looks at a railway crossing damaged by the floods on July 15, 2021 in Priorei near Hagen, western Germany, after heavy rain hit parts of the country, causing widespread flooding. SASCHA SCHUERMANN / AFP

 

What’s more, continuing rain is forecast for parts of the west, where water levels in the Rhine River and its tributaries are rising dangerously.

Around 1,000 soldiers have been deployed to help with rescue operations and rubble-clearing in affected towns and villages.

Streets and houses underwater, overturned cars and uprooted trees could be seen everywhere the floodwaters had passed, while some districts were cut off from the outside world.

In Ahrweiler several houses collapsed completely, leaving the impression the town had been struck by a tsunami.

At least 20 people had been confirmed dead in Euskirchen, one of the worst-hit towns just to the north.

Its normally spick and span centre had been turned into a heap of rubble, with house facades torn off by the rushing floods.

Adding to the town’s woes, a nearby dam remains at risk of giving way.

“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,” Merkel told reporters in Washington.

She said her government would not leave those affected “alone with their suffering,” adding that it was doing its “utmost to help them in their distress”.

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, recalling the floodwater crashing through her street during the night.

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

Five people are still missing in Belgium and the army has been sent to four of the country’s 10 provinces to help with rescue and evacuations.

With homes under water since Wednesday, people from resort town Spa were being put up in tents.

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

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Climate change? 

A man walks through the floods towards destroyed houses in Schuld near Bad Neuenahr, western Germany, on July 15, 2021. Bernd LAUTER / AFP

 

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

Germany “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.

Political candidates were quick to open a bidding war on climate following the floods.

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

At Least 67 Dead In Germany, Belgium As Storms Ravage Europe

A man looks at a railway crossing damaged by the floods on July 15, 2021 in Priorei near Hagen, western Germany, after heavy rain hit parts of the country, causing widespread flooding.
SASCHA SCHUERMANN / AFP

 

Heavy rains and floods lashing western Europe have killed at least 59 people in Germany and eight in Belgium, and many more people are missing as rising waters caused 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 and people were ordered to evacuate a riverbank in one city.

In Germany, which is experiencing one of the worst weather disasters since World War II, desperate residents sought refuge on the roofs of their homes as rescue helicopters circled above.

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, recalling the floodwater crashing through her street during the night.

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

Chancellor Angela Merkel, on a visit to Washington, said she was “shocked” by the humanitarian “disaster”, calling it a “tragedy” for the nation.

She vowed that the government would do “everything in its power to, under the most difficult circumstances, save lives, prevent danger and ease suffering”.

North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) premier 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.

He called for “speeding up” global efforts to fight climate change, underlining the link between global warming and extreme weather.

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

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‘Go to higher floors’ 

An aerial view taken on on July 14, 2021 shows a flooded intersection in Hagen, western Germany, after heavy rain hit parts of the country, causing widespread flooding.
INA FASSBENDER / AFP

 

The North Rhine-Westphalia interior ministry tallied four more bodies recovered, taking the region’s toll to at least 31, while neighbouring Rhineland-Palatinate said nine more deaths were likely in addition to 19 recovered in the region around the western town of Ahrweiler alone.

Up to 70 people are missing, a police spokesman told AFP.

NRW’s Euskirchen district reported 15 dead, while four more victims were found in the municipality of Schuld south of Bonn where six houses were swept away by floods.

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 and Rhineland-Palatinate, some 200,000 households were without power.

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 in Ahrweiler 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.

Evacuation orders 

A man walks through the floods towards destroyed houses in Schuld near Bad Neuenahr, western Germany, on July 15, 2021.Bernd LAUTER / 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.

Residents in Liege were told Thursday to urgently evacuate neighbourhoods near the banks of the Meuse river.

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.

Meanwhile Dutch safety workers have evacuated hundreds of homes in the southern town of Roermond in Limburg province.

The river Meuse in Limburg was expected break its banks early on Friday, and to reach its highest level in 200 years, the ANP news agency reported.

Thousands of people were being urged to evacuate their homes, especially in provincial capital Maastricht.

Several municipalities in Limburg have already declared a state of emergency making evacuation compulsory.

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