Floods in Europe kill dozens

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In Germany, around 1,300 people are “presumed” missing in the district of Ahrweiler, located in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, the local government said.

Flash floods swept through the west and south of the country, causing buildings to collapse, police said on Thursday. Germany is the most affected with 49 people killed, while six people have died in Belgium. Luxembourg and the Netherlands are also concerned.

“In some areas we haven’t seen so much precipitation in 100 years,” Andreas Friedrich, a spokesman for the German weather service, told CNN. He added that “in some areas we have seen more than double the amount of rain which has caused flooding and, unfortunately, the collapse of some building structures.”

The German regions of North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saar were the most affected, Friedrich added.

Extreme precipitation totals were seen from Wednesday to Thursday morning over much of western Germany and the Benelux, with North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate recording the highest precipitation totals, according to CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller.

Large swathes of these states recorded 24-hour total precipitation between 100 and 150 mm (3.9 to 5.9 inches), representing more than a month of precipitation in this region.

Cologne recorded 154 mm (6 inches) of precipitation in just 24 hours ending Thursday morning, nearly double its July monthly average of 87 mm (3.45 inches).

Locally stronger showers resulted in extreme flash floods. In Reifferscheid, an incredible 207 mm (8.1 inches) of rain fell in just nine hours, according to the European Severe Weather Database.

At least 30 dead in a German state

In North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, 30 people have been found dead, a state government spokesperson told CNN. At least 50 people were also injured in the floods, the spokesperson said, and the number of people missing is unclear.

In Rhineland-Palatinate, at least 19 people have been found dead, but “this number is expected to increase,” a spokesperson for the Koblenz police force told CNN.

On Thursday morning, in the district of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, more than 1,000 police and rescue workers were called, the local government said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on a swansong visit to Washington, said the deadly floods that have hit parts of her country are a “disaster”.

“Here in Washington, my thoughts are also always with the people of our homeland,” Merkel said at a press conference Thursday before her meeting with President Joe Biden.

“Peaceful places go through a disaster at these times, you could say a tragedy. Heavy rains and floods are very inadequate words to describe this – so it really is a disaster.”

Merkel said the current focus is on rescuing and responding immediately to those affected by the floods, but added that she was in close contact with her country’s Finance Minister, Olaf Scholz, to work on a longer term financial aid strategy to help recovery.

“I mourn those who lost their lives in this disaster – we do not yet know these numbers but there will be many,” she added.

Merkel’s spokesperson Steffen Seibert offered his condolences to the families of the victims. “I am shocked at the disaster that so many people in the flooded areas must endure. My condolences go out to the families of the dead and missing,” Seibert wrote on Twitter.

A woman tries to navigate a flooded street following heavy rains in Liège, Belgium.
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Merkel’s visit is likely her last to the United States before stepping down as chancellor in the fall after 16 years in office.

Armin Laschet, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia and the Conservatives’ candidate for Merkel’s succession, visited the affected parts of the region on Thursday.

“We will be faced with such events again and again, and this means that we must accelerate climate protection measures, at European, federal and global levels, because climate change is not confined to a single state,” said Laschet.

Six dead in Belgium

In neighboring Belgium, at least six people have died in flooding in the southern region of Wallonia, RTBF, a CNN subsidiary, reported Thursday, citing the duty magistrate at the Verviers prosecutor’s office and the governor of the province of Liège.

The Walloon region borders on North Rhine-Westphalia. The floods also disrupted the Belgian national rail network, Infrabel, interrupting services in the French-speaking south of the country, the company said in a statement on Thursday.

People ride on a trailer as Dutch firefighters evacuate people from their homes in South Limburg.

Italy has started sending search teams and vehicles to Wallonia, the Italian civil protection agency said in a statement.

King Philippe of Belgium visited the town of Chaudfontaine, in the province of Liège, after being affected by severe flooding.

“We are really touched by the gravity of the disaster,” Philippe said in a statement to the camera. “Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and all those who had to be evacuated urgently from the disaster areas.”

Workers from the French Civil Protection Agency have arrived in the Belgian province of Liège to help with recovery and rescue efforts.

“The rescuers of the (French) Civil Protection instruction and intervention unit are carrying out the first reconnaissance operations,” French Civil Protection said in a post on Twitter shortly after their arrival. “They will be joined this evening by firefighters, divers and rescuers.”

The European Union has also activated the civilian emergency response mechanism to come to the aid of regions of Belgium affected by the floods, the European Commission said in a statement on Thursday.

“Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Germany, you can count on the EU’s help to cope with these dramatic floods. My thoughts are with the victims of these tragic events and all those who will have to rebuild what they are doing. I would like to thank all the rescue teams for their invaluable help and tireless efforts, “EU Council President Charles Michel tweeted on Thursday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted an offer of support on Thursday.

“Shocking to see the devastating floods in Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium,” Johnson tweeted.

“My hearts go out to the families of the victims and all those affected. The UK stands ready to provide any support necessary for the rescue and recovery efforts.”

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Navigation has also been suspended on the Rhine, one of Germany’s longest and most important industrial transport arteries, according to NTV News.

Weather services spokesman Friedrich said the showers were caused by a mixture of colder and warmer precipitation. “It came from France at the start of the week to Germany and has stayed over Germany for the last 48 hours,” he said.

“For now, we expect the worst torrential downpour to have passed, although more heavy rains are expected in southwest Germany on the upper Rhine (Thursday) and Friday,” he said. -he adds.

Dutch city calls for evacuation of two neighborhoods

The city of Maastricht in the Netherlands called on residents of the Heugem and Randwyck neighborhoods to leave their homes “as soon as possible” due to the rising waters of the Meuse.

“The water of the Meuse rises quickly. We expect it to cross the quays of Randwyck / Heugem around 3 am,” said a statement from the town hall of Maastricht. “It means that the water will end up in the streets and the houses.”

According to the Dutch statistics office, the population of the two districts is over 9,000 inhabitants.

With climate change comes warmer air containing more water vapor

The extreme precipitation was the result of a slowly moving area of ​​low pressure, which allowed a conveyor belt of warm, humid air to fuel powerful thunderstorms and bring heavy and lasting precipitation, according to the weather service. German national, DWD.

EU unveils ambitious climate package as it cools down on fossil fuels

Intense precipitation rates are increasingly common in the warming climate, as warmer air can hold more water vapor available to fall as rain.

“These kinds of sudden, high-energy torrents of rain are exactly what we expect in our rapidly warming climate,” said Hannah Cloke, professor of hydrology at the University of Reading.

“The fact that other parts of the northern hemisphere are currently experiencing record heatwaves and fires should remind us how dangerous our weather could become in an increasingly hot world,” Cloke said.

Nadine Schmidt reported from Berlin, Barbara Wojazer reported from Paris and Sharon Braithwaite and Vasco Cotovio reported from London. James Frater and Melissa Gray contributed to this report.

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