Over 40 dead, dozens missing as severe floods strike Europe
More than 40 people have died and dozens were missing on Thursday in Germany and Belgium as heavy flooding turned streams and streets into raging torrents that swept away cars and caused houses to collapse. Recent storms across parts of western Europe made rivers and reservoirs burst their banks, triggering flash floods overnight after the saturated soil couldn't absorb any more water.
Merkel expressed shock at the scope of the flooding
"I grieve for those who have lost their lives in this disaster," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a visit to Washington, expressing shock at the scope of the flooding. "We still don't know the number. But it will be many," she added.
Schuld was among the worst-hit German villages
Police said 18 people died in Ahrweiler county, 15 in Euskirchen, three in Rheinbach, and two in Cologne. Belgium reported four deaths. Among the worst-hit German villages was Schuld, where several homes collapsed and dozens of people remained unaccounted for. Rescue operations were hampered by blocked roads and phone and internet outages across the Eifel, a volcanic region of rolling hills and small valleys.
'Never seen small Ahr River surge in such deadly torrent'
Some villages were reduced to rubble as old brick and timber houses couldn't withstand the sudden rush of water, carrying trees and other debris as it gushed through narrow streets. Karl-Heinz Grimm, who had come to help his parents in Schuld, said he had never seen the small Ahr River surge in such a deadly torrent. "This night, it was like madness," he said.
We have never seen such a disaster: Governor, Rhineland-Palatinate state
Dozens of people had to be rescued from the roofs of their houses with inflatable boats and helicopters. Germany deployed hundreds of soldiers to assist. "There are people dead, there are people missing, there are many who are still in danger," the governor of Rhineland-Palatinate state, Malu Dreyer, told the regional parliament. "We have never seen such a disaster. It's really devastating," she added.
Major highways were inundated in Belgium
In Belgium, the Vesdre River spilled over its banks and sent water churning through the streets of Pepinster, near Liege. Several homes have collapsed, Mayor Philippe Godin told RTBF network. It was unclear whether everyone had been able to escape unhurt. Major highways were inundated in southern and eastern parts of the country, and the railway said all trains were halted.
Videos on social media showed cars floating down streets
The full extent of the damage was still unclear, with many villages cut off by floods and landslides that made roads impassable. Videos on social media showed cars floating down streets and houses partially collapsed. Many of the dead were only discovered after floodwaters receded. Two firefighters died in rescue operations in North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany's most populous state.
Aire River rose to its highest levels in 30 years
In northeastern France, heavy rains flooded vegetable fields, many homes, and a World War I museum in Romagne-sous-Montfaucon. The Aire River rose to its highest levels in 30 years in some areas, according to local newspaper L'Est Republicain. The equivalent of two months of rain has fallen in some areas over two days, according to the French national weather service.