Heavy rains and floods lashing western Europe have killed a minimum of 45 people in Germany and left more missing, as rising waters led several houses to collapse on Thursday.
Unusually heavy rains also inundated neighboring Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Belgium, where a minimum of four people was reported dead and other people were ordered to evacuate a riverbank in one city.
In Germany, which is experiencing one of the worst weather disasters since the Second war, desperate residents sought refuge on the roofs of their homes as rescue helicopters circled above.
Pensioner Annemarie Mueller, 65, searching at her flooded garden and garage from her balcony, said her town of Mayen had been completely unprepared for the destruction.
“Where did all this rain come from? It’s crazy,” she said, recalling the floodwater crashing through her street during the night.
“It made such a bang and given how briskly it decreased, we thought it might break the door down.” Chancellor Angela Merkel, on a visit to Washington, said she was “shocked” by the humanitarian “disaster”, calling it a “tragedy” for the state.
She vowed that the govt would do “everything in its power to, under the foremost difficult circumstances, save lives, prevent danger and ease suffering”.
North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) premier Armin Laschet, who is running to succeed Merkel in September elections, canceled a celebration meeting in Bavaria to survey the damage in his state, Germany’s most populous.
“We will stand by the towns and other people who’ve been affected,” Laschet, clad in rubber boots, told reporters within the town of Hagen. He involved “speeding up” global efforts to fight global climate change, underlining the link between heating and extreme weather.
Because a hotter atmosphere holds more water, global climate change increases the danger and intensity of flooding from extreme rainfall.
Nineteen bodies were recovered within the region around the western town of Ahrweiler alone, with up to 70 people missing, a police spokesman said.
Farther north, the district of Euskirchen in NRW reported 15 dead. Four more victims were found within the municipality of Schuld south of Bonn where six houses were caught in a frenzy by floods. Several other bodies were recovered from flooded cellars across the region.
The environment ministry in Rhineland-Palatinate state warned it expected floodwaters on the Rhine and Moselle rivers to rise with more rainfall.
In NRW and Rhineland-Palatinate, some 200,000 households were without power.
Police found out a crisis hotline for reporting missing loved ones and residents were asked to send videos and photos that would help them within the search.
Regional official Juergen Pfoehler in Ahrweiler urged people to remain home “and, if possible, attend higher floors” of their houses. The German military deployed some 400 soldiers across the 2 affected states to help in rescue efforts.
In the city of Leverkusen, an influence outage triggered by the storms led to the evacuation of a hospital with 468 patients.
Belgium has also seen several days of heavy rain that has caused rivers within the French-speaking region of Wallonia to burst their banks. Four were reported dead.