Over 60 dead, dozens missing as severe floods strike Germany and Belgium
More than 60 people have died and dozens were missing Thursday as severe flooding in Germany and Belgium turned streams and streets into raging torrents that swept away cars and caused houses to collapse.
Among those killed were nine residents of an assisted living facility for people with disabilities and two firefighters involved in rescue efforts across the region.
Authorities said at least 30 people died in North Rhine-Westphalia state and 28 in neighboring Rhineland-Palatinate to the south. Belgian media reported eight deaths in that country.
Recent storms across parts of western Europe made rivers and reservoirs burst their banks, triggering flash floods overnight after the saturated soil couldn’t absorb any more water.
Among the worst-hit German villages was Schuld, where several homes collapsed and dozens of people remained unaccounted for.
Rescue operations were hampered by blocked roads and phone and internet outages across the Eifel, a volcanic region of rolling hills and small valleys. Some villages were reduced to rubble as old brick and timber houses couldn’t withstand the sudden rush of water, often carrying trees and other debris as it gushed through narrow streets.
Dozens of people had to be rescued from the roofs of their houses with inflatable boats and helicopters. Hundreds of soldiers were deployed to assist in the rescue efforts.
In Belgium, the Vesdre River spilled over its banks and sent water churning through the streets of Pepinster, near Liege, where a rescue operation by firefighters went wrong when a small boat capsized and three elderly people disappeared.
In Verviers, the prosecutor’s office said several bodies had been found but could not confirm local media reports that four people were killed there.
In Liege, a city of 200,000, the Meuse River overflowed its banks Thursday and the mayor asked people living nearby to move to higher ground.
The full extent of the damage was still unclear, with many villages cut off by floods and landslides that made roads impassable. Many of the dead were only discovered after floodwaters receded, The AP reported.
Authorities in the Rhine-Sieg county south of Cologne ordered the evacuation of several villages below the Steinbach reservoir amid fears a dam could break.