Europe floods: 118 dead as search, rescue operations continues


Not more than 118 people have died in the devastating floods that overwhelmed parts of Europe, while the search continues for those still missing.

People went missing following raging waters that turned once picture-postcard landscapes and historic towns into disaster areas.

Heavy rainfall and torrents of muddy water caused havoc across towns and villages in Western Europe, including parts of France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

But western Germany and eastern Belgium were the areas worst affected.

Streets turned into rivers on Thursday morning, as high waters washed away cars and buildings, knocked out power and communication lines, blocking access roads and leaving residents stranded.

The epicentre of the floods was in western Germany, where authorities have warned that hundreds of people remained unaccounted for.

Sixty fatalities were confirmed in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate and 43 in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia, bringing the national total to 103.

Across the border, in Belgium, the death toll stood at 15.

Around 900 army soldiers have joined rescue workers in Germany.

As search-and-rescue efforts continued, authorities were trying to account for residents from hard-hit communities, but communication problems were stalling their efforts.

In one case, authorities said on Thursday night that about 1,300 people were missing in Rhineland-Palatinate’s largely rural district of Areola.

However, the stalled mobile network and flooded roads and railways were hampering efforts to reach residents, so the actual number could eventually fall.

Safe drinking water was also now in short supply in parts of the crisis-hit region.

Meanwhile, many people had to be rescued by boat and a gas leak complicated rescue work in the town of Erftstadt, in Rhineland-Palatinate.

Among the deaths in Germany were 12 residents of a dormitory for people with intellectual disabilities in the town of Sinzig.

A local official that oversees the facility said water reached the ceiling of the ground floor level “within a minute”.

Matthias Mandos said that a night guard on duty managed to save several residents by helping them get to the floor above.

German President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said he was surprised and that he would travel to the flood regions.

“I’ll get a picture of the situation on the ground and above all seek talks with first responders and those affected,” Steinmeier said, describing the floods and many deaths as a tragedy.

German party leaders across the political spectrum have seized on the floods, the days of torrential rain and a recent bout of high temperatures to call on the nation to address the challenges of global warming.

The frontrunner aiming to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel in the September 26 elections, Armin Laschet, blamed the unprecedented floods and heavy rainfall on global warming.

Laschet, who was also North-Rhine Westphalia’s premier, once appeared to play down the consequences of climate change several years ago.

But on Thursday, he declared: “We’ll be faced with such events over and over, and that means we need to speed up climate protection measures because climate change is not confined to one state.”

The situation remained tense at midday on Friday, NAN reports.

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