The death toll from devastating flooding in western Germany and Belgium on Saturday rose to at least 170 people after the river and mountain floods that broke out this week caused houses to collapse and tear roads and electrical wires.
About 143 people were killed in floods in Germany’s worst natural disaster in more than half a century. According to the police, they included about 98 people in the Ahrweiler district south of Cologne.
Hundreds of people are still missing or unreachable because some areas are inaccessible due to high water levels, and communications are still interrupted in some places.
Residents and business owners are working hard to clean up the mess in the devastated town.
“Everything is completely destroyed. You don’t know the scenery,” said Michael Lang, the owner of a wine shop in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler in Ahrweiler, holding back tears.
German President Frank-Waltersteinmeier visited Elfstadt in North Rhine-Westphalia. The disaster caused at least 45 deaths.
“We mourn with those who have lost friends, acquaintances, and family members,” he said. “Their fate is tearing our hearts.”
Authorities say about 700 residents were evacuated on Friday night after a dam in the town of Wasenberg near Cologne burst.
But Wassenberg Mayor Marcel Maurer said the water level has been stable since the evening. “It is too early to make a conclusion, but we are cautiously optimistic,” he said.
However, after about 4,500 people were evacuated from downstream houses, the authorities stated that the Steinbachtal Dam in western Germany was still at risk of rupture.
Steinmeier said that the total loss is expected to require billions of euros in reconstruction funds to be assessed.
The governor of North Rhine-Westphalia and the candidate of the ruling CDU party in the September general election, Armin Laschet, stated that he will meet with Finance Minister Olaf Schu in the next few days. Olaf Scholz discusses financial support.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to travel to the Rhineland-Palatinate state on Sunday, which is home to the destroyed village of Schuld.
According to the National Crisis Center, which is responsible for coordinating local rescue operations, the death toll has risen to 27 in Belgium.
It added that 103 people were “missing or unable to be contacted”. The center said that some people may not be able to contact because they cannot charge their mobile phones or are hospitalized without identification documents.
The community is cut off
In the past few days, floods have mainly hit the German states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia, as well as eastern Belgium, and have cut off electricity and communications throughout the community.
Germany’s largest power producer said on Saturday that its open-pit mine and Weisweiler coal-fired power plant in Inden have been severely affected, adding that after the situation stabilizes, the power plant’s capacity is reducing.
In Luxembourg and Namur provinces in southern Belgium, authorities are eager to supply drinking water to families.
The flood levels in the worst-hit areas of Belgium slowly dropped, allowing residents to sort out damaged properties. On Saturday afternoon, Prime Minister Alexander De Crowe and European Commission President Ursula von der Lein visited some areas.
Infrabel, the Belgian railway network operator, has announced a line maintenance plan, some of which will be put back into use at the end of August.
The Netherlands is on high alert
As river flooding threatens towns and villages in the southern province of Limburg, the emergency services in the Netherlands are also on high alert.
In the past two days, tens of thousands of residents in the area have been evacuated, while soldiers, fire brigades and volunteers have been working frantically all Friday night to strengthen the dam and prevent flooding.
So far, the Netherlands has not suffered the same disaster as its neighbors, and as of Saturday morning, there have been no reports of casualties.
For a long time, scientists have stated that climate change will lead to greater downpours. But scientists said on Friday that it would take at least a few weeks to study to determine its role in these unforgiving rains.