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More Than 30 Dead, Dozens Missing in Heavy Europe Floods

Brittany Jordan

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BERLIN—More than 30 people have died and dozens of people were missing Thursday in Germany and neighboring Belgium after heavy flooding turned streams and streets into raging torrents, sweeping away cars and causing buildings to collapse.

Storms across parts of western Europe in recent days caused rivers and reservoirs to burst their banks, resulting in several flash floods overnight as rain-soaked soil failed to absorb any more water.

Authorities in the western German region of Euskirchen said eight deaths had been reported there in connection with the floods. Rescue operations were hampered by the fact that phone and internet connections were down in parts of the county, which is southwest of Cologne.

Officials said 18 people had died in Ahrweiler county, south of Euskirchen. Up to 70 people were reported missing after several houses collapsed overnight in the village of Schuld in the Eifel, a volcanic region of rolling hills and small valleys southwest of Cologne.

A vehicle travels on a flood-affected road after the Erft river swelled following heavy rainfalls in Erftstadt, near Cologne, Germany, on July 15, 2021. (Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters)

Dozens more were trapped on the roofs of their houses awaiting rescue. Authorities used inflatable boats and helicopters, and the German army deployed 200 soldiers to assist in the rescue operation.

“There are people dead, there are people missing, there are many who are still in danger,” the governor of Rhineland-Palatinate state, Malu Dreyer, told the regional parliament. “We have never seen such a disaster. It’s really devastating.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was distraught by the news of the floods. “My sympathy goes to the relatives and of the dead and missing,” she said during a trip to Washington.

Across the border in Belgium, the Vesdre river broke its banks and sent masses of water churning through the streets of Pepinster, close to Liege, its destructive power bringing down some buildings.

“Several homes have collapsed,” mayor Philippe Godin told RTBF network. It was unclear whether all inhabitants had been able to escape unhurt.

Several Belgian media reported that four people died in eastern Verviers. No independent confirmation was immediately available.

Belgium Weather
A man walks by damaged cars in a flooded street in Mery, Province of Liege, Belgium, on July 14, 2021. (Valentin Bianchi/AP Photo)

Major highways were inundated in the south and east of Belgium, and the railway service said all traffic was stopped.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged to help those affected.

“My thoughts are with the families of the victims of the devastating floods in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands and those who have lost their homes,” she tweeted. “The EU is ready to help.”

The full extent of the damage across the region was still unclear after many villages were cut off by floodwater and landslides that made roads impassable. Videos posted on social media showed cars floating down streets and houses partly collapsed in some places.

Many of the dead were only discovered after floodwaters began to recede again. Police said four people died in separate incidents after their basements were flooded in Cologne, Kamen, and Wuppertal, where authorities warned that a dam threatened to burst.

Authorities in the Rhine-Sieg county south of Cologne ordered the evacuation of several villages below the Steinbachtal reservoir amid fears the dam there could also break.

flood-in-germany
A car is covered in Hagen, Germany, with the debris brought by the flooding of the ‘Nahma’ river the night before, on July 15, 2021. (Roberto Pfeil/dpa via AP)

Two firefighters died during rescue operations in North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state.

Gov. Armin Laschet paid tribute to them and pledged swift help for those individuals and businesses affected by the floods.

“We don’t know the extent of the damage yet, but we won’t leave the communities, the people affected alone,” he said during a visit to the flood-hit city of Hagen.

German weather service DWD predicted the rainfall would ease Thursday, though there might still be localized storms and water levels on the Mosel and Rhine rivers would continue to rise in the coming hours.

Germany Weather
Houses are submerged on the overflowed river banks in Erdorf, Germany, on July 15, 2021. (Harald Tittel/dpa via AP)

Authorities in the southern Dutch town of Valkenburg, close to the German and Belgian borders, evacuated a care home and a hospice overnight amid flooding that turned the tourist town’s main street into a river, Dutch media reported.

The Dutch government sent some 70 troops to the southern province of Limburg late Wednesday to help with transporting evacuees and filling sandbags as rivers burst their banks.

A section of one of the Netherlands’ busiest highways was closed due to rising floodwaters threatening to inundate the road and Dutch media showed a group of holidaymakers being rescued from a hotel window with the help of an earth mover.

germany-flood
A photo, taken with a drone, shows the devastation caused by the flooding of the Ahr River in the Eifel village of Schuld, western Germany, on July 15, 2021. (Christoph Reichwein/dpa via AP)

Unusually intense rains have also inundated a swath of northeast France this week, downing trees and forcing the closure of dozens of roads. A train route to Luxembourg was disrupted, and firefighters evacuated dozens of people from homes near the Luxembourg and German border and in the Marne region, according to local broadcaster France Bleu.

The equivalent of two months of rain has fallen on some areas in the last one or two days, according to the French national weather service. With the ground already saturated, the service forecast more downpours Thursday and issued flood warnings for 10 regions.

By Frank Jordans

Brittany Jordan is an award-winning journalist who reports on breaking news in the U.S. and globally for the Federal Inquirer. Prior to her position at the Federal Inquirer, she was a general assignment features reporter for Newsweek, where she wrote about technology, politics, government news and important global events around the world. Her work has also appeared in the Washington Post, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Toronto Star, Frederick News-Post, West Hawaii Today, the Miami Herald, and more. Brittany enjoys food, travel, photography, and hoarding notebooks and journals. Her goal is to do more longform features journalism, narrative writing and documentary work, and to one day write a successful novel and screenplay.

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