Floods in Germany: Hundreds Missing and Scores Dead in Western Europe


[Follow our live coverage of the floods in Europe]

BERLIN — Following a day of frantic rescue efforts and orders to evacuate towns rapidly filling with water unloosed by violent storms, the German authorities said late Thursday that after confirming scores of deaths, they were unable to account for at least 1,300 people.

That staggering figure was announced after swift-moving water from swollen rivers surged through cities and villages in two western German states, where the death toll passed 90 on Friday in the hardest-hit regions and other fatalities were expected.

With communication badly hampered, the authorities were hoping that the missing people were safe, if unreachable. But the storms and the floods have already proved deadly.

At least 11 more people were reported to have died in Belgium, according to authorities who also ordered inhabitants of downtown Liège to evacuate as the Meuse River, which flows through its center, overflowed its banks.

The storms and resulting high water also battered neighboring Switzerland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg as a slow-moving weather system threatened to dump even more rain on the inundated region overnight and into Friday.

The devastation caused by the severe weather came just days after the European Union announced an ambitious blueprint to pivot away from fossil fuels over the next nine years, as part of plans to make the 27-country bloc carbon-neutral by 2050. Environmental activists and politicians were quick to draw parallels between the flooding and the effects of climate change.

But the immediate focus on Thursday remained the rescue efforts, with hundreds of firefighters, emergency responders and soldiers working to save people from the upper floors and rooftops of their homes, fill sandbags to stem the rising water and search for the missing.

The flooding in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate was some of the worst in decades, after several days of steady rain dumped more water than could be absorbed by the ground and sewage systems.

The authorities reported at least 43 deaths in North Rhine-Westphalia, where at least 15 people were known to have died in the district of Euskirchen, south of Düsseldorf. Many others were still being rescued, although some villages remained unreachable.

Ms. Merkel, who was visiting Washington Thursday, expressed her condolences to those who had lost loved ones and thanked the thousands of helpers. She pledged the support of the German government for the affected regions.

“Everything that can be done, wherever we can help, we will do that,” she said, adding that Germany had received offers of help from its European partners.

Hundreds of firefighters worked through the night to evacuate people who had been left stranded. Two firefighters died while trying to rescue people in Altena, in North Rhine-Westphalia, the police said.

“The water is still flowing knee-high through the streets, parked cars are thrown sideways, and trash and debris are piling up on the sides,” Alexander Bange, the district spokesman in the Märkische region of North Rhine-Westphalia, told the German news agency D.P.A.

“It is really very depressing here,” he said.

Megan Specia contributed reporting.



Source link Most Shared

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*