By Martin Schlicht and David Sahl
SCHULD/ERFTSTADT, Germany (Reuters) – More than 1,000 people are missing and more homes were destroyed in flood-stricken areas in western Germany and Belgium on Friday, where new floods are feared and the death toll is at least. minus 117.
Entire communities have been in ruins since rivers overflowed and swept across small towns and villages in the German states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia, Belgium and the Netherlands.
“It was so horrible, we couldn’t help anyone. People were gesturing out of the windows,” Frank Thel, a Schuld resident, told Reuters in front of a pile of rubble in the city, where several buildings had collapsed.
In Germany alone, 103 people have died, the biggest loss of life in years in the country. It is feared that this number will rise as more houses have collapsed, while in Belgium the media has said at least 14.
“The waters are rising more and more. It’s scary,” said Thierry Bourgeois, 52, in the Belgian city of Liege.
The infrastructure has been completely destroyed, and rebuilding will cost a lot of time and money, Prime Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate Malu Dreyer told broadcaster ZDF.
“The suffering only increases,” he added.
About 1,300 people are missing in the Ahrweiler district, south of Cologne, the district government reported on Facebook.
Mobile phone networks are down in some of the flood-ravaged regions, which prevents family and friends from tracking their loved ones.
Farther north, in Erftstadt, near Cologne, several houses collapsed this Friday morning, and rescue workers are struggling to reach residents by boat. Roads around Erftstadt are impassable as they have been swept away by floods.
It was unclear whether there were any casualties, as rescue agents had to rely on walkie-talkies to relay information.
“The network has completely collapsed. The infrastructure collapsed. Hospitals cannot receive anyone. Rest homes had to be emptied,” the spokeswoman said.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told Spiegel magazine that the federal government intends to provide financial support to the affected regions as soon as possible, adding that a package of measures must go to the cabinet for approval on Wednesday.
(Additional reporting by Riham Alkousaa, Kirsti Knolle, Douglas Busvine, Anneli Palmen, Matthias Inverardi, Anthony Deutsch and Phil Blenkinsop)
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