A boy helps clean-up outside his home following heavy rains and floods in the town of Rochefort on Saturday. AFP
Gulf Today Report
The death toll from the heavy flooding that swept through parts of western Europe has passed 170 and thousands have been left homeless, as rescuers race to find survivors while hundreds remain missing. Rescue workers laboured to deal with damage laid bare by receding water and thoughts turned to the lengthy job of rebuilding communities devastated in minutes.
Homes have been covered in water and brought down in some cases and vehicles carried away by streams after rivers and reservoirs burst their banks.
The vast majority of deaths have occurred in Germany, while media reports suggest at least 24 people have died in Belgium. It is estimated thousands of Germans have been homeless after buildings collapsed or were deemed high risk.
The Netherlands remains on high alert as overflowing rivers threatened towns and villages throughout the southern province of Limburg.
Luxembourg and France has also been affected by flooding, which erupted amid relentless rain and storms. Some 141 people died in the flooding in Germany’s worst natural disaster in more than half a century.
That included about 98 in the Ahrweiler district south of Cologne, according to police. Hundreds of people were still missing or unreachable as several areas were inaccessible due to high water levels while communication in some places was still down. Residents and business owners struggled to pick up the pieces in battered towns.
A climate scientist at Imperial College London Ralf Toumi said, "Floods always happen, and they are like random events, like rolling the dice. But we've changed the odds on rolling the dice."
An earlier report said the German emergency teams were still searching for hundreds of missing people after the worst floods that caused dozens of deaths.
Scientists have long said that climate change would lead to heavier downpours. But determining its role in last week's relentless downpours will take at least several weeks to research.
The rescue workers toiled to clear up the devastation and prevent further damage.
Police said that more than 90 people are now known to have died in western Germany's Ahrweiler county, one of the worst-hit areas, and more casualties are feared.
A woman trying to move in a flooded street following heavy rains in Liege, Belgium, on Thursday. AFP
Another 43 people were confirmed dead in neighbouring North Rhine-Westphalia state, Germany's most populous, and 20 others were killed across the border in Belgium.
By Saturday, waters were receding across much of the affected regions, but officials feared that more bodies might be found in cars and trucks that were swept away.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier planned to travel Saturday to Erftstadt, southwest of Cologne, where a harrowing rescue effort unfolded on Friday as people were trapped when the ground gave way and their homes collapsed.
A man takes pictures of a devastated area after the floods in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany. AFP
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, from Washington, where she met President Joe Biden, expressed her fear "that we will not be able to know the true extent of the disaster until the coming days."
The death toll in Germany has risen to at least 103. Germany's most read daily newspaper, Bild, headlined its front page "Floods of Death" after heavy rain fell in several regions of the country.
Neighbouring Belgium counted at least 23 dead, while Luxembourg and the Netherlands were badly affected by the floods, and thousands were evacuated in the city of Maastricht.
But the death toll in Germany was the highest, at 103 deaths, and is likely to rise with large numbers of people still missing in the hardest-hit states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate.
Local authorities told the newspaper that about 1,300 people were missing in the affected Ahrweiler region in Rhineland-Palatinate.
"We think there are still 40, 50 or 60 people missing. If you haven't heard it for a long time... you have to fear the worst," Regional Interior Minister Roger Lofitz told EWR radio.
"Most likely, the number of casualties will continue to rise in the coming days," he added.
Streets, submerged houses, overturned cars and uprooted trees can be seen in all the sites affected by the floods, while some areas were cut off from the outside world.
An aerial view shows the flooded village of Schuld, near Adenau, western Germany. AFP
In Arweiler, many houses collapsed completely, leaving the impression that a tsunami had hit the city.
The city centre, which is usually neat and tidy, looks like a ruined square.
"My heart is with all those who lost their loved ones in this disaster and are concerned about the fate of people who are still missing," Merkel told reporters in Washington.
A woman leaves her home in a flooded street of the Belgian city of Hognoul. AFP
She explained that her government would not leave those affected "alone in their suffering," adding that it was "doing all it can to help them in their plight."
Looking at her flooded garden from her balcony, Annemarie Muller, 65, said her hometown of Maine was not prepared for this disaster.
An employee walks across the flooded yard of a construction company in Rummenohl, Germany, on Wednesday. AP
She added: “Where did all this rain come from? It is madness.”
In Belgium, five people are still missing, and the army has been sent to four of the country's 10 provinces to assist in rescue and evacuation operations.
Storms have brought climate change back to the centre of Germany's election campaign ahead of elections scheduled for September 26, which will end Merkel's 16 years in power.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Germany "must be better prepared" for the future, adding, "This extreme weather is the result of climate change.”
The death toll in Germany has risen to at least 103.Germany's most read daily newspaper, Bild, headlined its front page "Floods of Death" after heavy rain fell in several regions of the country.
Police put the toll from the hard-hit Ahrweiler area of western Germany's Rhineland-Palatinate state at 110 and said they feared the number may still rise. In neighbouring North Rhine-Westphalia state, Germany's most populous, 45 people were confirmed dead, including four firefighters.
An elderly couple died when their car overturned as torrential rains and flooding hit southeastern Spain.
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