The number of people who died from flooding in Germany rose to 103 on Friday (16), according to the latest survey published by the authorities. The unprecedented rain – which also hits neighboring countries and kills 14 in Belgium – warns of the occurrence of extreme natural events as a consequence of climate change.
Around 1,300 people are still missing, but it is possible that a large part of that number relates to residents who are only incommunicado due to power outages and damage to telecommunications networks.
Yet as rescue teams – which have been reinforced by 700 German Army troops, work in the worst-affected areas – the total death toll is likely to rise.
Entire communities were in ruins after several rivers overflowed and invaded towns and villages in the German states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, as well as in neighboring countries like Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
“People were waving through the windows. It was so terrible we couldn’t help anyone,” Schuld resident Frank Thel told Reuters news agency, where dozens of houses had been reduced to piles. rubble.
In the town of Sinzig, south of Cologne, 12 residents of a home for the disabled died after being caught in the floods overnight.
“Our state is experiencing a flood disaster of historic dimensions”, declared the Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet, candidate for the succession of German Prime Minister Angela Merkel. This Thursday (15), during visits to several affected cities, Laschet blamed global warming for the extreme events and reiterated the importance of measures that can curb climate change.
In Erftsdadt, although other buildings collapsed on Friday morning, some of the residents who had been evacuated have returned home. As a result, authorities cannot clearly determine who is at risk and who is safe, so more deaths are expected.
Rescuers are using boats to try to reach stranded residents as the roads around the city are impassable as they have been washed away by the floods. At least 15 people were still being held in their homes, according to a district spokesperson.
“The network has collapsed. The infrastructure has collapsed. The hospitals cannot accommodate anyone. The retirement homes had to be evacuated,” said a representative of the Cologne regional government.
Near the German border with Belgium, a dam overflowed and another had to be stabilized due to the much higher volume of water than expected. About 4,500 people from surrounding communities have had to leave their homes for fear of dams breaking.
In the province of Limburg, the Netherlands, thousands of other residents have also been forced to leave their homes due to the flooding. The Dutch emergency services were on high alert and the authorities also ordered the reinforcement of the dikes to increase the water containment capacity.
In Belgium, in addition to the 14 confirmed deaths, there are at least four missing. Crisis management officials have advised Belgians, especially those in the south and east of the country, not to leave their homes.
“The waters are rising higher and higher, it’s scary,” Thierry Bourgeois, 52, from Liège, told Reuters. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
At Maaseik, near the border with the Netherlands, the Meuse crossed the retaining wall and a barrier formed of sandbags on its banks. Several towns and villages along its course were inundated, and in Pepinster more than ten houses collapsed in whole or in part.
The flood deaths in Germany are the country’s biggest natural disaster since a flood in the North Sea in 1962, which killed around 340 people.
When the Elbe overflowed in 2002, the press called the scenario a “once-in-a-century flood”. At the time, 21 people died in eastern Germany and more than 100 in central Europe.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the scale and intensity of flooding is a clear indication of climate change and demonstrates the urgent need for action.