Berlin: In Germany and neighbouring Belgium on Thursday, more than 30 people were killed and dozens of people were missing. The reason was that severe flooding turned streams and streets into torrential torrents, washed away cars and caused buildings to collapse.
The storms that have swept parts of Western Europe in recent days caused rivers and reservoirs to burst their banks, leading to several flash floods overnight, because the soil soaked by rain could not absorb more water.
Authorities in the Euskirchen region of western Germany stated that 8 people have died there as a result of the floods. Telephone and Internet connections in parts of the county southwest of Cologne were disrupted, which hindered rescue operations.
Officials said 18 people died in Ahrweiler County, south of Euskirchen. According to reports, several houses in the village of Schulder in the Eifel collapsed overnight. According to reports, as many as 70 people are missing. The Eifel is a volcanic area composed of rolling hills and small valleys in southwest Cologne.
Dozens more were trapped on the roofs of their houses awaiting rescue. Authorities used inflatable boats and helicopters, and the German army deployed 200 soldiers to assist in the rescue operation.
“There are people dead, there are people missing, there are many who are still in danger,” the governor of Rhineland-Palatinate state, Malu Dreyer, told the regional parliament. “We have never seen such a disaster. It’s really devastating.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was distraught by the news of the floods. “My sympathy goes to the relatives and of the dead and missing,” she said during a trip to Washington.
Across the border in Belgium, the Vesdre river broke its banks and sent masses of water churning through the streets of Pepinster, close to Liege, its destructive power bringing down some buildings.
“Several homes have collapsed,” mayor Philippe Godin told RTBF network. It was unclear whether all inhabitants had been able to escape unhurt.
Several Belgian media reported that four people died in eastern Verviers. Independent confirmation was not immediately obtained.
The main highways in southern and eastern Belgium were flooded, and the railway department stated that all traffic had stopped.
The President of the European Commission Ursula von der Lein promised to help those affected.
She tweeted: “My heart is with the families of the victims of the devastating floods in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands and those who have lost their homes.” “The European Union is ready to help.”
After many villages were rendered impassable by floods and landslides, the extent of damage to the entire area remains unclear. Videos posted on social media showed cars floating on the streets and houses partially collapsed in some places.
Many of the dead were only discovered after the flood subsided again. The police said four people were killed in separate incidents after the basements in Cologne, Carmen and Wuppertal were flooded. The authorities warned that a dam there could rupture.
Authorities in the county of Rhine-Sieg, south of Cologne, ordered the evacuation of several villages below the Steinbachtal Reservoir because they feared that the dam there might also burst.
Two firefighters were killed in a rescue operation in Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine Westphalia.
Governor Armin Laschet paid tribute to them and promised to quickly help individuals and businesses affected by the flood.
“We don’t know the extent of the loss yet, but we will not leave the community and the people affected,” he said during a visit to the flooded city of Hagen.
Laschet is a conservative who will succeed Angela Merkel as prime minister in the German general election this fall. He said that the unusually violent storm and previous heat waves may be related to climate change.
The political opposition criticized the miner’s son Rashet for supporting the coal mining industry in the region and hindering the expansion of wind power plants during his tenure.
The German Meteorological Agency DWD predicts that the rainfall will ease on Thursday, but there may still be local storms, and the water levels of the Moselle and Rhine will continue to rise in the next few hours.
According to Dutch media reports, authorities in the southern Dutch town of Valkenburg near the German-Belgian border evacuated a nursing home and a hospice hospital overnight. Flooding turned the main street of this tourist town into a river.
The Dutch government sent some 70 troops to the southern province of Limburg late Wednesday to help with transporting evacuees and filling sandbags as rivers burst their banks.
A section of one of the Netherlands’ busiest highways was closed due to rising floodwaters threatening to inundate the road and Dutch media showed a group of holidaymakers being rescued from a hotel window with the help of an earth mover.
Unusually intense rains have also inundated a swath of northeast France this week, downing trees and forcing the closure of dozens of roads. A train route to Luxembourg was disrupted, and firefighters evacuated dozens of people from homes near the Luxembourg and German border and in the Marne region, according to local broadcaster France Bleu.
The equivalent of two months of rain has fallen on some areas in the last one or two days, according to the French national weather service. With the ground already saturated, the service forecast more downpours Thursday and issued flood warnings for 10 regions.
Meanwhile, high temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher were expected Thursday in parts of northern Europe.
The night between Wednesday and Thursday was the hottest in history, the Finnish weather service company Foreca said Thursday with the mercury reaching 24.2 Celsius degrees (75.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
Greta Thunberg, the climate activist, tweeted that the extreme weather of recent days should not be regarded as “the new normal.”
“We’re at the very beginning of a climate and ecological emergency, and extreme weather events will only become more and more frequent,” she wrote.