Emergency rescuers in western Germany and Belgium rushed to rescue hundreds of people who were in danger or who were still unaccounted for, as the death toll from the devastating flood rose to more than 125 on Friday.
Authorities in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate said that 63 people died there, including 12 residents of the disabled assisted living facility in Sinziger town. They were surprised by the sudden flood of water from the nearby Ahr River.
In the neighboring state of North Rhine-Westphalia, state officials set the death toll at 43, but warned that the number may increase.
German President Frank-Waltersteinmeier said he was “shocked” by the damage caused by the flood and promised to support the families of the victims and the severely damaged towns.
“Our country stands together when needed,” Steinmeier said in a statement. “It is important that we express our solidarity with the people who have been taken away by the flood.”
A distressing rescue operation was launched in the German town of Erftstadt, southwest of Cologne, where people were trapped when the ground collapsed and houses collapsed.
“Last night we managed to get 50 people out of their house,” county administrator Frank Lock told the German broadcaster n-tv.
Aerial photos showed that a gravel pit on the edge of the town appeared to have experienced a huge landslide.
“It must be assumed that in this situation, some people cannot escape,” Locke said.
Authorities are trying to explain the hundreds of people listed as missing, but they warn that the high numbers may be due to repeated reports and difficulties in reaching people due to interruptions in road and telephone services.
The Dutch dike is in danger of collapsing
After Germany, which had 106 deaths, Belgium was the country most affected by floods, which caused houses to be razed to the ground. The Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden told the VRT network that 20 people have been confirmed dead in the country and another 20 people are missing.
Verlinden said that the water level of the Meuse River that flows from Belgium into the Netherlands is still critical, and several dikes are in danger of collapsing.
Due to the imminent threat of river flooding, authorities in the southern Dutch town of Venlo evacuated 200 hospitalized patients.
After several days of heavy rainfall in Western Europe, flash floods occurred this week. Thousands of people remain homeless in Germany after their houses were destroyed or deemed in danger by the authorities.
The governor of North Rhine-Westphalia hopes to succeed German Chancellor Angela Merkel as the national leader after the German general election on September 26. He said that this disaster is the most densely populated state in the country. Caused huge economic losses.
“The flood did lift the ground from under many people’s feet,” Governor Amin Raschelt said at a news conference. “They lost their house, farm, or business.”
Federal and state officials have pledged to provide financial assistance to affected areas, including Rhineland-Palatinate, where at least 60 people died and entire villages were destroyed.
“Climate change is no longer abstract”
The governor of the Rhineland-Palatinate state Maru Dreyer said the disaster showed the need to accelerate efforts to curb global warming.
She accused Raschelt and Merkel’s center-right alliance for hindering Germany, Europe’s largest economy and a major emitter of global warming, in its efforts to achieve greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
“Climate change is no longer abstract. We are experiencing it up close and painfully,” she told Funke Media Group.
German President Steinmeier responded to her call for greater efforts to combat global warming.
“Only if we act decisively to combat climate change can we limit the extreme weather conditions we are now experiencing,” he said.
Experts say that such disasters may become more common in the future.
“Some areas in Western Europe… received rain for up to two months in two days. What’s worse, the previous rains have saturated the soil,” said Clare Nullis, spokesperson for the World Meteorological Organization. ) Say.
Although she said it is too early to blame the floods and previous heat waves on rising global temperatures, Nulis added: “Climate change has increased the frequency of extreme events. Many single events have been proven to be caused by global warming. It gets worse.”
‘Military disaster alert’
The spokesperson of the Ministry of National Defense Ane Kolac said that the German military deployed more than 850 soldiers to help fight floods and disaster relief, but this number is “increasing significantly because of the growing demand.” He said the ministry triggered a “military disaster alert.”
Italy sent civil defense officials, firefighters and rescue boats to Belgium to help find missing persons.
The southern province of Limburg in the Netherlands also suffered severe flooding. The army piled up sandbags to reinforce the 1.1-kilometer (0.7-mile) long embankment along the Maas River, and the police helped evacuate low-lying areas.
Dutch caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the government officially declared the flood-affected areas as disaster areas, which means that businesses and residents are eligible for compensation. King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands visited the area on Thursday night and called the scenes “heartbreaking.”
At the same time, continuous rainfall in Switzerland caused many rivers and lakes to burst their banks. The public broadcaster SRF reported that late Thursday, a flash flood washed the car, flooded the basement and destroyed the small bridge in the northern village of Schleitheim und Beggingen.
Eric Schultz, the mayor of the severely-hit German city of Hagen, located 50 kilometers (31 miles) northeast of Cologne, said that other regions and ordinary citizens have expressed solidarity to help those affected by the floods.
“We have many citizens who say,’I can provide a place to stay, where can I go to help, where can I register, where can I take my shovel and bucket?'” he told n-tv.
“This city stands together and you can feel this.”