The dead are over 80, race against time to save hundreds of missing people in the Ahrweiler region
“I fear we will see the full extent of this tragedy only in the next few days.” This is the bitter and worried comment of Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, about the devastating floods that have brought her country to its knees. The toll of the disaster for now exceeds 80 victims, the number of missing is impressive. There is no news of 1300 people in the Ahrweiler region, possibly due to the suspension of cell phone communications, reports the Die Welt website. Electricity supplies are also interrupted for at least 165 thousand people. And the bad weather does not stop: the forecast for the next few hours announces more violent rains.
In the country, which is experiencing one of the worst weather disasters since World War II, many people have sought refuge on the roofs of houses. It was the western part of the country that was affected, in particular the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia, where the storms caused the flooding of the rivers, threatening to knock down the houses.
At least 18 bodies have been recovered in the city of Ahrweiler alone; further north, in the district of Euskirchen, the victims were 15. South of Bonn, in the municipality of Schuld, six houses were swept away by the fury of the waters and four people died, while several other bodies were found in the cellars . Among the victims in the western region of Germany are two firefighters, who died while trying to evacuate people from buildings in Altena and Wedohl; two other men were killed in flooded cellars near Solingen, while another death was reported in Rheinbach. Rescuers moved by helicopter to reach those who had taken refuge on the roofs to escape the fury of the waters. A senior official urged residents to stay at home and “if possible go to the upper floors.” “The situation is very serious,” he stressed. Berlin has deployed 400 soldiers to help with search and rescue operations, while tens of thousands are left without electricity.
Angela Merkel, on a visit to Washington, said she was “shocked” by the catastrophe and the humanitarian “disaster” and spoke of “tragedy” for the nation. The leader of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet, who aims to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel in the September elections, canceled an event in Bavaria to follow the situation and pointed the finger at global warming, asking to “accelerate” global efforts to combat it. “We will be alongside the city and the people who have been hit,” he assured, as he visited Hagen with his boots on.
Also in Belgium, the country most affected by the floods after Germany, which has about ten victims and an unknown number of missing people, the army has been mobilized. In the Netherlands, the province of Limbourg, which borders Germany and Belgium, has been severely damaged. Several roads and a motorway were closed due to the risk of flooding due to the floods. And now, at the request of the EU Commission, the machine of European international assistance has been set in motion. A team of the Civil Protection and the National Fire Brigade has already reached Liège; in the next few hours, a C-130 flight of the Italian Air Force will depart from Venice, carrying the module made available by the fire brigade with personnel and vehicles specialized in search and rescue in flood conditions. A Defense helicopter will fly to Belgium to support the search for the missing.