Floods in Germany and Belgium have killed at least 120 people, and more than 1,000 people are missing, as entire communities lie in ruins in both countries.
Record-breaking rainfall in Europe caused huge flooding after large rivers overflowed. The flood waters washed away buildings and cars in some cases.
The German military has deployed more than 700 troops to assist with rescue efforts across the country, with some 4,500 people evacuated to western Germany as authorities fear further dam bursts.
“Some parts of Western Europe (…) received up to two months of rain within two days. What made the situation worse was that the soils were already saturated by the previous rains.” World Meteorological Organization spokesperson Clare Nullis said.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was “stunned” by the devastation caused by the floods and pledged his support to affected families, towns and villages.
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“At the time of need, our country stands together,” Steinmeier said in a statement Friday afternoon. “It is important that we stand in solidarity with those from whom the flood has taken everything.”
County administrator Frank Rock said authorities were able to help 50 people evacuate their homes overnight, with another 15 people yet to be rescued.
“One has to assume that under these circumstances some people failed to escape,” Rock told German television station N-TV. He further claimed that the authorities did not have a specific number for the death toll.
Some reports put the number of missing persons at around 1,300, but this number may include duplicate reports or people who cannot be reached due to disruption of road and telephone access.
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Some 114,000 homes in Germany had no electricity on Friday morning and mobile phone networks collapsed in some areas, Reuters reported.
“The network has completely collapsed,” said a spokeswoman for the Cologne regional government. “The infrastructure has collapsed. The hospitals cannot accommodate anyone. The retirement homes had to be evacuated.”
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Armin Laschet, the prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, blamed the disaster on global warming, warning that the country can expect “such events again and again”.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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