BERLIN – Rescuers across Germany and Belgium rushed on Friday to prevent more deaths from the continent’s worst flooding in years as the disaster left dozens dead and the search continued for hundreds of missing persons. The death toll rises to more than 125.
60 FLOODS IN GERMANY DOZENS MISSING
Fueled by days of heavy rains, the flood waters also left thousands of Germans homeless after their homes were destroyed or deemed endangered, and elected officials began to worry about the lingering economic effects of the loss. of homes and businesses.
Elsewhere in Europe, dikes on swollen rivers were at risk of collapsing and crews rushed to strengthen flood barriers.
Sixty-three people perished in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, including 12 residents of an assisted living facility for the disabled in the town of Sinzig who were surprised by a sudden rise in water from the nearby Ahr river, the authorities announced.
In the neighboring state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the death toll stood at 43, but authorities have warned it could rise.
FLOODS IN EUROPE: 120 DEAD IN GERMANY, BELGIUM BECAUSE MORE THAN 1,000 PEOPLE ARE MISSING
In a flooded German town, the ground collapsed under family homes. In another, floodwaters swept through an assisted living facility, killing 12 people.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was “stunned” by the devastation and pledged his support to the families of those killed and to towns and villages facing significant damage.
“At the time of need, our country stands together,” Steinmeier said in a statement. “It is important that we stand in solidarity with those from whom the flood has taken everything.”
A heart-wrenching rescue effort unfolded in the German town of Erftstadt, southwest of Cologne, where people were trapped when the ground gave way and their homes collapsed.
Fifty people have been rescued from their homes, county administrator Frank Rock told German broadcaster n-tv. Aerial photos showed what appeared to be a massive landslide in a gravel pit on the outskirts of town.
“One has to assume that under the circumstances some people failed to escape,” said Rock.
Authorities have warned that the large number of missing could come from duplicate reports and difficulties reaching people due to closed roads and disrupted phone service.
After Germany, where the death toll stood at 106, Belgium was the hardest hit. The country had confirmed the deaths of 20 people, and 20 others are still missing, Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden told the VRT network on Friday.
ARIZONA STRIKES HARD WITH FLASH FLOODING IN NATURE FIRE BURN SCAR
Several dikes on the Meuse that runs from Belgium to the Netherlands were at risk of collapsing, Verlinden said. Authorities in the town of Venlo in the south of the Netherlands have evacuated 200 hospital patients due to the imminent threat from the river.
The governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, who hopes to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel as the country’s leader after Germany’s September 26 elections, said the disaster had caused immense economic damage to the most densely populated state from the country.
“The floods have literally torn the ground from under the feet of many people,” Governor Armin Laschet said at a press conference. “They lost their homes, their farms or their businesses.”
Federal and state authorities have pledged financial assistance to affected areas.
Rhineland-Palatinate state governor Malu Dreyer said the disaster showed the need to step up efforts to curb global warming. She accused the center-right Union bloc of Laschet and Merkel of hampering efforts to further reduce greenhouse gases in Germany, Europe’s largest economy and a major emitter of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse.
“Climate change is no longer abstract. We are living it up close and painfully,” she told media group Funke.
Steinmeier, the German president, reiterated his calls for more efforts to tackle global warming.
“It is only if we resolutely engage in the fight against climate change that we will be able to limit the extreme weather conditions that we are currently experiencing,” he said.
Experts say such disasters could become more frequent in the future.
“Some parts of Western Europe (…) received up to two months of rain in a span of two days. What made the situation worse was that the soils were already saturated from previous rainfall.” World Meteorological Organization spokesperson Clare Nullis said.
While she said it was too early to blame the flooding and the previous heat wave on rising global temperatures, Nullis added: “Climate change is already increasing the frequency of extreme events. And many isolated events have been shown to be made worse by global warming. “
The German military has deployed more than 850 troops to help fight the flooding, and the need for help is increasing, Defense Ministry spokesman Arne Collatz said. He said the ministry had sounded a “military disaster alarm”.
Italy sent civil protection agents, firefighters and rescue boats to Belgium to help search for the missing.
In the province of Limburg in the south of the Netherlands, which was also hit hard by flooding, troops stacked sandbags to reinforce a 1.1 kilometer (0.7 mile) dike along the Meuse, and the police helped evacuate the slums.
Acting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the government is officially declaring flooded areas disaster areas, making businesses and residents eligible for compensation. Dutch King Willem-Alexander visited the region on Thursday evening and called the scenes “heartbreaking”.
Meanwhile, heavy rains in Switzerland caused several rivers and lakes to overflow. Public broadcaster SRF reported that a flash flood washed away cars, flooded basements and destroyed small bridges on Thursday evening in the northern villages of Schleitheim und Beggingen.
Erik Schulz, mayor of the hard-hit German town of Hagen, 50 kilometers (31 miles) northeast of Cologne, said a wave of other regions and ordinary citizens have offered to help.
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“We have many, many citizens saying ‘I can offer a place to stay. Where can I go to help? … Where can I bring my shovel and bucket?’” He said. at n-tv. “The city is united, and you can feel it.”
Associated Press editors Geir Moulson and Emily Schultheis in Berlin, Raf Casert in Brussels, Nicole Winfield in Rome, Angela Charlton in Paris and Mike Corder in The Hague, the Netherlands, contributed to this report.
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