The death toll from devastating floods across parts of western Germany has risen to 103, according to local authorities, pushing the total toll of flooding in Western Europe past 110, as the search continued for hundreds of people still unaccounted for.
While heavy rainfall battered parts of France, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, the worst hit areas were western Germany where more than 60 victims have been reported in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate and 43 in the state of North Rhine Westphalia. In Belgium, the toll stood at 14.
There are fears more victims will be found as waters drain away across the devastated region and cleanup and salvage operations are stepped up. Around 900 army troops have joined rescue workers in Germany as about 1,300 people were still reported missing.
Authorities, though, said efforts to contact them could be hampered by disrupted roads and phone connections.
Here are the latest update:
More than 700 soldiers on duty
About 707 soldiers have been deployed across 20 counties in the worst-hit states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine Westphalia to provide support to the local communities affected by the heavy rains, the defence ministry said on Twitter.
Aktuelle Zahlen zum #Hochwasser: Derzeit sind 709 Soldatinnen und Soldaten im Einsatz – in insgesamt 20 Landkreisen in NRW und Rheinland-Pfalz. Die Katastrophenhilfe hat jetzt oberste Priorität, betont Ministerin @akk. Wir bündeln alle verfügbaren Kräfte. #FürEuchGemeinsamStark pic.twitter.com/6TMXq8cWHg
— Verteidigungsministerium (@BMVg_Bundeswehr) July 16, 2021
Translation: There are currently 709 soldiers on duty in 20 districts in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate. Disaster relief is now the top priority, said minister AKK [Minister of Defence Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer].
We are pooling all available forces.
Hospital evacuation in Dutch city
Authorities in the southern Dutch town of Venlo are evacuating a hospital due to the looming threat of flooding.
Emergency coordinators said some 200 patients will be transported from the VieCuri hospital to other hospitals Friday afternoon as a precaution “to get ahead of any possible flooding.”
The hospital is close to the banks of the swollen Maas river that flows into the Netherlands from Belgium, where flooding has caused widespread damage in and near the city of Liege.
Several houses collapsed in Erftstadt
In Erftstadt, a town south-west of Cologne which has been badly hit by the storm, several residential buildings and part of the historic castle have collapsed, local media reported.
“We assume several deaths, but do not know,” reportedly said the North Rhine-Westphalian Interior Minister Herbert Reul in Düsseldorf.
Death toll in Germany rises to 103
Authorities in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate said 60 people had died there, while in neighbouring North Rhine-Westphalia state officials put the death toll at 43, but warned that the figure could rise further.
Tougher climate action needed: Steinmeier
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was “stunned” by the devastation caused by the flooding and pledged support to the families of those killed and to cities and towns facing significant damage.
Steinmeier also highlighted how climate action was needed to prevent such devastation in the future.
“Only if we take up the fight against climate change decisively, we will be able to prevent, we will be able to keep extreme weather conditions such as those we are experiencing,” he said.
On a similar note, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen urged stronger action on climate change.
“It is the intensity and the length of the events that science tells us this is a clear indication of climate change and that this is something that really, really shows the urgency to act,” she told reporters.
Quick financial support
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told magazine Spiegel that the federal government aimed to provide financial support for the affected regions as quickly as possible, adding a package of measures should go to the cabinet for approval on Wednesday.
Damage in Pepinster after river Vesdre outburst
River water churned through the Belgian town of Pepinster, near Liege as police helicopter hovered above the town as an emergency worker was lowered into the flooded streets below.
Damaged buildings could be seen along the river bank.
In a provisional tally, the Belgian death toll has risen to 12, with five people still missing, local authorities and media reported early Friday.
Malu Dreyer, the governor of neighboring Rhineland-Palatinate state, said the disaster showed the need to speed up efforts to curb global warming.
“We’ve experienced droughts, heavy rain and flooding events several years in a row, including in our state,” she told the Funke media group. “Climate chance isn’t abstract anymore. We are experiencing it up close and painfully.”
She accused the Laschet and Merkel’s center-right Union bloc of hindering efforts to achieve greater greenhouse gas reductions in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy and a major emitter of planet-warming gases.
Merkel voices her shock
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on a visit to Washington, DC, voiced her shock at the scope of the flooding, saying “I grieve for those who have lost their lives in this disaster”. She said the number of dead was likely to rise further. “We still don’t know the number. But it will be many.”
Speaking at the White House, Merkel said the day was “characterised by fear, by despair, by suffering, and hundreds of thousands of people all of a sudden were faced with catastrophe”.
“My heart goes out to all of those who in this catastrophe lost their loved ones, or who are still worrying about the fate of people still missing,” she said.
‘EU is ready to help’: von der Leyen
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged to help, tweeting: “My thoughts are with the families of the victims of the devastating floods in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands and those who have lost their homes.”
My thoughts are with the families of the victims of the devastating floods in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands and with those who have lost their homes.
The EU is ready to help.
Affected countries can call on the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) July 15, 2021