BERLIN (AP) – More than 20 people have been killed and dozens more are missing in Germany and neighboring Belgium.
Recent storms in some parts of Western Europe have caused rivers and reservoirs to burst their banks, resulting in flash floods as rain-soaked soils fail to absorb more water.
Authorities in the West German province of Usschurch reported eight deaths in connection with the floods on Thursday. Rescue operations were hampered as telephone and internet connections were cut off in some parts of the district southwest of Cologne.
Police in the western city of Coblins say four people have been killed in Ahrwheeler County. Up to 70 people are missing after several houses collapsed overnight in the village of Schultz in the volcanic region of the rolling hills and small valleys southwest of Cologne.
Dozens of people are trapped on the roofs of their homes waiting for rescue. Officers used inflatable boats and helicopters, and the German army assisted 200 soldiers in the rescue operation.
“People are dead, people are missing, and many more are in danger,” Rhineland-Palatinate Governor Malu Trier told the regional parliament. “We have never seen such a catastrophe,” he said. This is really disastrous. ”
Across the Belgian border, the Westray River broke its shores and sent large quantities of water into the streets of Pepinster, near Liege, where its destructive power knocked down some buildings.
“Many houses collapsed,” Mayor Philip Codin told the RTPF network. It is unclear whether all people can escape unharmed.
In the eastern Uban, on the German border, a local governor told the RTPF network that one person had died after being swept away by a flood. No other man has been found in eastern Belgium, and in some cities water levels have risen to unprecedented levels and their centers have become rivers.
Major highways have been flooded and in the south and east of the country, all traffic has been halted, the railway service said.
EU Commission President Ursula van der Leyen promised to help the victims.
“My thoughts are with the families of those affected by the catastrophic floods in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, and those who lost their homes,” he tweeted. “The EU is ready to help.”
The full extent of the damage across the area is still unclear after several villages were cut off by floodwaters and landslides, making roads impassable. Videos posted on social media showed cars floating on the streets and in some places houses partially collapsed.
Many of the dead were found only after the floodwaters began to recede again. Police said four people died in separate incidents after foundations were flooded in Cologne, Common and Wuppertal, where authorities warned there was a threat of a dam exploding.
Authorities in Rhine-Seek County, south of Cologne, have ordered the evacuation of several villages below the Steinbacht Reservoir, fearing that the dam there could break.
One firefighter drowned Wednesday during a rescue operation in the West German city of Aldena, while another collapsed during rescue operations at a power station in Verdol-Elverlingson. Authorities say a man has gone missing in the eastern city of Johstot after trying to protect his property from rising water.
Rail links were suspended in large parts of Germany’s most populous state, North-Rhine-Westphalia. Governor Armin Lacet was expected to arrive in the flood-hit city of Hagen later Thursday to nominate Angela Merkel as president in this fall’s German election.
The German Meteorological Agency forecasts less rain on Thursday, although there may still be local storms.
Authorities in the southern Dutch city of Walkenberg, near the German and Belgian borders, evacuated a care home and a shelter overnight amid flooding, which turned the tourist city’s main street into a river, Dutch media reported.
The Dutch government sent 70 troops to the southern province of Limburg late Wednesday to assist in tasks including transporting the evacuees and filling sandbags as rivers burst their banks.
A section of one of the busiest highways in the Netherlands has been closed, flooding is threatening to drown the road and the Dutch media showed a group of vacationers being rescued with the help of an earth trio from a hotel window.
Unusually heavy rains inundated northeastern France this week, forcing trees to fall and closing dozens of roads. The train to Luxembourg has been blocked, and firefighters have evacuated dozens of people from homes near the Luxembourg and German border and from the Marne region, according to local broadcaster France Blue.
According to the French National Weather Service, some areas have received the equivalent of two months’ worth of rain in the last one or two days. With the ground already saturated, the service issued flood warnings for 10 regions predicting heavy rains on Thursday.
Meanwhile, temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher are expected in some parts of northern Europe on Thursday.
The night between Wednesday and Thursday was the hottest in history, with the Finnish meteorological service Forca reaching 24.2 degrees Celsius (75.6 degrees Fahrenheit) for mercury on Thursday.
Climate activist Greta Dunberg tweeted that the extreme weather of recent days should not be considered “new nature”.
“We are at the beginning of a climate and environmental emergency, with extreme weather events occurring more and more frequently,” he said on Twitter.
Raf Gazzard in Brussels, Angela Charlton in Paris, John M. in Copenhagen. Olson and Mike Carter in The Hague contributed to this report.