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Germany and Belgium: At least 160 dead after ‘catastrophic’ flooding

Germany faces 'biblical' flooding as death toll rises

There are fears the death toll could rise even further (Pictures: AP/EPA/Getty)

At least 160 people have died after disastrous flooding wreaked havoc across parts of western Europe, with fears the toll could rise even further as rescuers search for hundreds still missing.

The majority of those killed were in Germany. Police said more than 90 people are known to have died in western Germany’s Ahrweiler county, in hard-hit Rhineland-Palatinate state. Another 43 people were confirmed dead in neighbouring North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state.

State President Armin Laschet called the flooding a ‘catastrophe of historic dimensions’, while German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was ‘stunned’ by the extent of the devastation.

The death toll in Belgium rose to 27 on Saturday, with Prime Minister Alexander De Croo declaring a national day of mourning on Tuesday, adding: ‘This could be the most catastrophic flooding our country has ever seen.’

Severe damage in the village of Schuld in the district of Ahrweiler (Picture: EPA)
Massive damage in Erftstadt-Blessem, Germany (Picture: AP)
A desdroyed piano lies amid debris in the street in Schuld near Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, western Germany (Picture: AFP via Getty)
Men walk amid driftwood, rubble and an overturned car (Picture: AFP via Getty)

And there are concerns the disaster could be compounded further, with dykes along one river between Belgium and the Netherlands and a dam in North Rhine-Westphalia said to be in danger of collapsing.

Waters are receding across many of the affected regions, but officials fear that more bodies might be found in cars and trucks that were swept away.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, earlier this week said she fears ‘we will only see the full extent of the disaster in the coming days’.

Mr Steinmeier planned to travel to Erftstadt, southwest of Cologne, where a harrowing rescue effort unfolded on Friday as people were trapped when the ground gave way beneath them.

People use rubber rafts in floodwaters after the Meuse River broke its banks during heavy flooding in Liege, Belgium, Thursday, July 15, 2021. Heavy rainfall is causing flooding in several provinces in Belgium with rain expected to last until Friday. (AP Photo/Valentin Bianchi)

People use rubber rafts in floodwaters after the Meuse River broke its banks during heavy flooding in Liege, Belgium (Picture: AP)
King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium visit an area affected by floods (Picture: Reuters)
Residents observe the destruction after heavy rains caused flooding in Trooz, Belgium (Picture: EPA)

At least three houses and part of a mansion in the town’s Blessem district collapsed.

The German military used armoured vehicles to clear away cars and trucks overwhelmed by the floodwaters on a nearby road, some of which were still at least partly submerged.

Officials feared that some people didn’t manage to escape in Erftstadt, but by Saturday morning no casualties had been confirmed.

In the Ahrweiler area, police warned people of a potential risk from downed power lines and urged curious visitors to stay away.

They complained on Twitter that would-be sightseers were blocking some roads.

A view overlooking Brommelen shows the flooded area around the Meuse (Picture: AFP via Getty)
The flooding has been caused by unusually heavy rain in the hilly parts of Germany and the Ardennes region in Belgium (Picture: AFP via Getty)

Around 700 people were evacuated from part of the German town of Wassenberg, on the Dutch border, after the breach of a dike on the Rur river.

Train lines and roads remained blocked in many areas of eastern Belgium. The national railway service said traffic would start returning to normal on Monday.

A cafe owner in the devastated town of Pepinster broke down in tears when King Philippe and Queen Mathilde visited Friday to offer comfort to residents.

In addition to worst-hit Germany and Belgium, southern parts of the Netherlands also have been hit by heavy flooding.

Volunteers worked through the night to shore up dikes and protect roads.

Thousands of residents of the southern Dutch towns of Bunde, Voulwames, Brommelen and Geulle were allowed to return home Saturday morning after being evacuated on Thursday and Friday.

Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who visited the region on Friday, said that the region faced ‘three disasters’.

He went on: ‘First, there was corona, now these floods, and soon people will have to work on clean up and recovery. It is disaster after disaster after disaster.’

Among other efforts to help the flood victims, Dutch brewery Hertog Jan, which is based in the affected area, handed out 3,000 crates of beer to help locals raise their belongings off the ground and protect them from the flooding.

In Switzerland, heavy rain as caused several rivers and lakes to burst their banks, with authorities in the city of Lucerne closing several pedestrian bridges over the Reuss river.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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