GERMANY: At least 42 people have died and dozens more are missing following heavy rainfall triggering flash floods across the west of Germany, local media reported Thursday.
At least six others have died in neighbouring Belgium, and the city of Liège has urged all residents to leave, BBC reported.
It follows record rainfall in parts of western Europe that have caused major rivers to burst their banks.
In the Sauerland region, two firefighters died while assisting those trapped by rising waters, reported news agency DPA.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel quoted “shocked” at chaotic scenes from flooded areas. “To the many tireless helpers and emergency workers, I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” she said.
Four houses were swept away by rising floodwaters in the small town of Schuld in Rhineland-Palatinate, while two others were partly washed away. Some 50 to 70 people are missing, the authorities said.
“There are people dead, there are people missing, there are many who are still in danger. We have never seen such a disaster. It’s really devastating,” the governor of Rhineland-Palatinate state, Malu Dreyer, told the regional parliament.
Eight deaths were reported in the western German region of Euskirchen in connection with the floods, authorities reported.
About 2,000 residents have been stranded in the city of Trier due to the flooding, the authorities said. Around 470 people were evacuated from a hospital in the city of Leverkusen after the emergency power failed overnight.
In Solingen, about 600 people were also forced to abandon their homes.
Officials said other five people had died in Ahrweiler county. On the other hand, as many as 50 residents were trapped on the roofs of their houses awaiting rescue.
Authorities used inflatable boats and helicopters to evacuate residents. The German army has been deployed to help rescue residents, with more rainfall forecast in southwestern Germany later this week.
With phone and internet connections down, rescue operations were hampered in some parts. The country’s biggest power distribution company, Westnetz, estimated around 200,000 homes were without electricity as a result of the flooding.
On Wednesday, the German weather service issued an extreme weather alert, with continuous rains until Friday evening – environmental expert Bernd Mehlig quoted it as “completely unusual in summer.” Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for the German government, said the severe flooding was “terrible” and pondered its link to climate change.
In other news, earlier this week Britain’s flash floods wrecked widespread chaos with parts of London receiving a month’s rainfall in a day.
With a flooding Zurich on Tuesday, caused by heavy rainfall and thunderstorms, Switzerland also issued travel and weather warnings this week.