The search for survivors of the floods caused by unprecedented rains in Europe continues this Saturday (17), while the death toll in Germany and Belgium, the two most affected countries, rose to 157.
Hundreds of people are still missing, and the tone of the German authorities is one of regret for the worst natural disaster to hit the country in more than half a century. At least 133 people have died in Germany, the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate; 24 others died in Belgium.
In Wassenberg, near Cologne, 700 people had to leave their homes on the night of Friday (16) because of the risk of a dam rupture. According to the city’s mayor, water levels have dropped, but it is too early to declare residents out of danger, which is why he called the work of local authorities “cautiously optimistic”.
In the west of the country, near the Belgian border, the Steinbachtal dam remains threatened with rupture and around 4,500 people have been forced to flee the region.
“We are sorry for those who have lost friends, acquaintances, relatives,” said German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier during a visit to Erfstadt in North Rhine-Westphalia, where at least 43 people died. According to him, it will take weeks for all the damage caused by the floods to be assessed, which is expected to require several billion euros.
Armin Laschet, Prime Minister of State and candidate for succession to Prime Minister Angela Merkel, said that in the coming days, the articulation to enable the financial support promised to those affected by the tragedy should begin. He defined the scenario as a “catastrophe of historic proportions”.
Little by little, the inhabitants who had to rush out of their homes threatened by water return, and many discover a dark landscape: destroyed houses, walls blown off by floods, fallen trees, overturned vehicles, impassable roads and bridges, cuts. the supply of drinking water and electricity.
In Belgium, at least 24 deaths have been confirmed and around 20 people are still missing. “Unfortunately, we have to assume that this number will continue to increase in the hours and days to come,” the national crisis management center said in a statement.
The Netherlands has also been affected by heavy rains, but until Saturday authorities have not recorded any deaths. The emergency services remain on alert, however, because overflowing rivers still threaten cities and towns, especially in the province of Limburg in the south of the country.
Tens of thousands of residents in the area have been evacuated over the past two days, as soldiers, firefighters and volunteers have continued to work hard to strengthen the dikes and attempt to contain the flooding in a way or another.
In addition to the immediate tragedy, the unprecedented rains have triggered a warning about the danger of climate change. According to specialists interviewed by Folha, the increase in global temperatures generates an accumulation of energy in the atmosphere which dissipates through extreme weather events, which tend to become more and more powerful and frequent.