At least 42 people have died and another 70 are still missing this Thursday as a result of the heavy rains – the most intense measures in 24 hours since there are records – that have occurred overnight and early in the morning in western Germany. The waterspout has caused rivers to overflow, washed away several houses and flooded basements, where some people trapped in them have drowned. At least 200,000 people have been left without electricity and several rail lines and roads are cut. The floods have also affected parts of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
Photogallery: Floods in Germany
The authorities of the Euskirchen region, south of Bonn (North Rhine-Westphalia state), have reported eight victims. In Ahrweiler, which belongs to the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, at least 18 deaths have been recorded after the Ahr, a tributary of the Rhine, overflowed and washed away six houses, according to the Koblenz police. In neighboring Belgium, six other people have died in towns near Liège (east) due to torrential rains.
“It is a catastrophe! There are dead, missing and many people still in danger. All our emergency services are on call 24 hours a day and risking their own lives, ”said Malu Dreyer, Prime Minister of the Land of Rhineland-Palatinate.
Two of those killed in Germany were firefighters, of whom at least one drowned, while many of the missing are residents who had taken refuge on the roofs of houses that were washed away by the current of the Ahr River, a tributary of the Rhine. The town of Schuld bei Adenau (Ahrweiler district) has been the hardest hit by the rains. The images show several houses destroyed and others have been badly affected, according to local police, so they could collapse later. At first the authorities spoke of 30 missing people in this area, but the figure has risen to 70. Rail, road and river transport has been interrupted, as has navigation on the Rhine.
Further down the river, the rains caused flooding in cities such as Cologne and Hagen, while in Leverkusen 400 people had to be evacuated from a hospital.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on an official visit to Washington, spoke of “catastrophe” and showed her solidarity with the families of the victims and with all those affected. Merkel said she was “in shock” upon learning the extent of the tragedy. Politics returns to Germany on Thursday night.
“Right now we have an undetermined number of people on the rooftops who need to be rescued,” a Koblenz police spokesman told Reuters. In the same district where the six houses were washed away by rising waters, another 25 houses were at risk of collapse.
“Fire brigades and rescuers have been deployed in many places. We still don’t have a very accurate image [de lo sucedido] because the rescue operations continue ”, added the spokesman. The Army has also been deployed to help rescue people still trapped on rooftops.
A man from the town of Ahrweiler in northern Rhineland-Palatinate state fled the city in a hurry for safety after a flood advisory was issued at 2am on Thursday.
“I have never experienced a catastrophe in which the river has overflowed in such a short time,” the 63-year-old man, who did not reveal his identity, told SWR television. To the north, in North Rhine-Westphalia, two people were found dead in Cologne’s flooded cellars, and three others in Solingen, Unna and Rheinback, according to German police.
The Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet, a conservative candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor in the general elections on September 26, traveled to Hagen on Thursday morning after interrupting his pre-election trip to the south. from Germany. “We will not leave the municipalities and those affected alone,” he assured the media.
The situation in Belgium
In neighboring Belgium, the area most affected by the storm is the region of Wallonia, and in particular the provinces of Liège (east) and Luxembourg (south). In Spa, a tourist town near Liège, the center is completely flooded, while in another town in the province, Pepinster, a dozen houses have collapsed. The inhabitants of several villages have had to be evacuated, as well as hundreds of teenagers who were in summer camps.
Belgium has launched a flood crisis cell. Although the meteorological situation has calmed down somewhat in the last hours, this Thursday the risk of an increase in the water level persists, reported the Ministry of the Interior of the Belgian province of Luxembourg, which, in a statement, has recommended to the population that be “vigilant”.
The German weather service has in turn warned that strong storms are expected in southwest Germany this Thursday, with continuous rains that are expected to last until Friday night. The intense precipitations that have caused the floods have had their origin in a system of low pressures in the atmosphere.
The European Union has offered its assistance to the territories affected by the floods in Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. “The EU is ready to help,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted. Affected countries, he added, can request assistance through the European Civil Protection system.