European Flooding: 110 Dead In German, 14 In Belgium and 1300 People Remain Unaccounted For

GERMANY (July 16, 2021)—flooding continues in Germany and Belgium. At least

  • 103 people in Germany have been reported dead across western Germany and 14 in Belgium.
  • Many people still missing. Rescue workers assess the damage in Bad Neuenahr as 1,300 people remain unaccounted for, possibly due to mobile networks being down. More than 1,000 emergency service employees have been deployed in the region, including the fire brigade, police and armed forces.
  • 55 people were rescued after houses collapsed south of Cologne.

Defense Ministry spokesman Arne Collatz said the German military had deployed some 850 troops in affected areas, but the number is “rising significantly because the need is growing.”

He added that the ministry had triggered a “military disaster alarm,” a technical move that essentially decentralizes decisions on using equipment to commanders on the ground. That means that military personnel were authorized to decide — on their own — how to assist in local clean-up and rescue efforts. 

More than 200 soldiers were already deployed in nine districts and cities in Rhineland-Palatinate, although the numbers were higher as not all vehicle crews were counted.

‘Dramatic and enormous’ damage

Rhineland-Palatinate state premier said there was bad news every hour. 

“We have not yet reached the stage where we can say that the situation is easing,” Dreyer said. “In the meantime, the assessment of all of us is that the damage is so dramatic and enormous that we will have to deal with this issue for a long time to come,” she added. 

North Rhine-Westphalia’s state premier described the situation as a “catastrophe of historic proportions.”

“The floods have literally pulled the rug out from under [people’s] feet,” Laschet said. 

Officials in both states fear that the number of victims will continue to rise as the situation remains to difficult to assess

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said climate action was needed to prevent such catastrophes in the future. 

“Only if we take up the fight against climate change decisively, we will be able to prevent extreme weather conditions such as those we are experiencing,” Steinmeier said.

Steinmeier’s remarks echoed German politicians, including the ministers of interior and environment, who have called for more action to fight climate change. 

The president also announced that he would travel to the areas of western Germany that were devastated by the floods. 

“It is a tragedy that so many people have lost their lives,” he said during an address at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin. “My thoughts are with them; their fate strikes me to the heart.” 

Death toll reaches 110

The North Rhine-Westphalia Interior Ministry said on Friday that at least 43 died in the flooding. 

More than 60 people have been reported dead in Rhineland-Palatinate, the state premier announced.

Houses collapse in Erftstadt

Several houses have collapsed in Erftstadt, south of Cologne, and rescue crews were struggling to help residents who had returned to their houses despite the warnings, officials said on Friday.

Several people were missing, while a gas leak was further hampering rescue workers as they tried to reach stranded people by boat, the Cologne district government said.

A spokesman for the district government of Cologne said 55 people have been rescued from affected houses, while 15 were still trapped in their homes. 

The Bundeswehr is stepping in with vehicles to help rescue the trapped people, the spokesperson said.

He appealed to residents who had been evacuated not to return to their homes. “Returning is life-threatening,” he said. 

Belgium death toll rises 

At least 14 people were killed and four were missing after flash floods hit Belgium, local media reported.  

Although the heavy rains stopped, Belgians were nervously watching as the river Meuse continued to rise and threatened to overflow.

Around 10 houses partially or fully collapsed in Pepinster near the eastern city of Liege, where Meuse flows.

‘Europe stands together’ 

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said his counterparts from Portugal and Slovenia expressed their condolences during a meeting in Ljubljana.

“It is important for the local people to know that they are not alone in difficult times. It is also good to know that Europe stands together,” Spahn said. 

Catastrophe support will be Bundeswehr’s ‘top priority’

Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said the main focus for the German military, the Bundeswehr, will be assisting the emergency response. 

“I have already ordered that all other assignments that are not directly related to the missions abroad be put on hold,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Friday. 

“The Bundeswehr is already providing active help with emergency response and clearing work with its quickly available on-site forces,” she added. 

On Friday morning, Walporzheim was a “ghost town” as a lot of people fled the extreme rains. But those who stayed were starting to overcome the initial shock and assess the damage that the flooding left behind, she said.

One resident who owns property in the town told Saudelli that the damage, in his case, amounts for millions of euros. “Imagine multiplying that for thousands of people,” Saudelli said. 

Reporter Giulia Saudelli reported via Twitter “In Walporzheim, homes right next to the river have been hit by a wave of water up to 4-5 meters high. People say they thought they‘d die. They are now trying to save any personal belongings they can from their homes.”

.In a second tweet, reporter Saudelli said “It will take time and money to completely clear up the streets here in Walporzheim and empty the homes of mud and debris. This is the town’s main road”

Rhineland-Palatinate: ‘Suffering keeps increasing’

Rhineland-Palatinate’s state premier, Malu Dreyer, told public broadcaster ZDF that the extent of damage in her state was inconceivable.

“The suffering keeps increasing,” Dreyer said Friday. “Our state has never seen anything like it.”

Rhineland-Palatinate Interior Minister Roger Lewentz told public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk that he expects rescue workers to recover more bodies during their search. 

Lewentz also doubted that the 1,300 people that were reportedly unaccounted for were all missing. “However, yesterday was also a day when it was very difficult to get an overview. People fled their buildings,” he said.

Rescue efforts continue

Rescue workers continue searching for missing people on Friday as dozens were still missing across western Germany. 

Police in Koblenz stressed that people should not go to affected areas to search for their relatives or belongings. “You put yourself in danger and, possibly, hinder the rescue measures,” police said on Twitter.

There were still more than 1,300 people unaccounted for in the Ahrweiler region, possibly due to mobile networks being down. In Belgium, several towns and villages were submerged.

A woman swims a flooded street following heavy rains in Liege.

Officials to discuss financial aid

The North Rhine-Westphalia state Cabinet holds an emergency meeting Friday to discuss financial aid to those affected by the flooding, as well as the costs to repair the destruction. 

North Rhine-Westphalia state premier, Armin Laschet, on Thursday visited the town of Hagen, which had been heavily impacted by the flooding.

“We will stand by the towns and people who’ve been affected,” Laschet told reporters. 

Rhineland-Palatinate has already provided €50 million ($59 million) as short-term support to repair damage to roads, bridges and other structures.

Germany’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told Spiegel that the federal government aimed to provide financial support for the affected regions as quickly as possible.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has also promised aid to those affected.


Source: DW News

Featured Photo: Several people lost their houses in Erftstadt in partial or total collapses during floods and landslides

Article Photo: In Belgium, several towns and villages were submerged.

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