More than 30 dead after floods in Germany and Belgium

More than 30 dead after floods in Germany and Belgium
More than 30 dead after floods in Germany and Belgium

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - BRUSSELS — More than 30 people have lost their lives amid flooding in Germany and Belgium following days of heavy rain.

Precipitation across western Europe has led to many rivers overflowing in Belgium, France Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.

Merkel shocked by catastrophe

Authorities in the Euskirchen district, in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, revealed on Thursday morning that eight people are known to have died.

It said that the situation in several locations "is very critical" with rescues underway. Communication, including internet and telephone connections, is restricted with the 112 emergency number "not reachable".

Police in Koblenz, in the western German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, said on Thursday afternoon that the death toll in the area stood at 18.

It had said in the morning that "many people are reported missing" and that many of those unaccounted for had been on the roofs on houses that were washed away in the town of Schuld.

Dozens of people are still awaiting rescue on roofs, authorities said.

The German army deployed 200 soldiers to assist in the rescue operation.

These fatalities come after five deaths were reported on Wednesday, including an 82-year-old man who died in Wuppertal after falling in his flooded basement and a fireman who drowned in Altena during rescue work.

The governor of Rhineland-Palatinate state, Malu Dreyer, told the regional parliament on Thursday that "We have never seen such a disaster. It's really devastating."

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who landed in Washington on Wednesday for a meeting with US President Joe Biden, said in a statement that she was "shocked by the catastrophe that so many people in the flood areas have to endure."

"My sympathy goes out to the families of the dead and missing. My heartfelt thanks go to the many tireless helpers and emergency services," she added.

Belgium badly hit

Across the border, the governor of the Liege Province, Catherine Delcourt, said on Thursday morning that at least two people have lost their lives and that several others are missing.

Four bodies were also found Thursday in the eastern Belgian district of Verviers, the city's prosecutor has confirmed.

Residents in Chaudfontaine, on the banks of the river Vesdre, began to be evacuated on Wednesday afternoon. The operation was expected to involve up to 1,700 people, RTBF reported.

In addition, hundreds of scouts who were camping in Wallonia have had to be evacuated and rehoused since Tuesday night.

"We are evacuating the scout camps one after the other," Corine Mullens, the mayor of Rochefort (south), a tourist town where several rivers meet, told RTL-TVI.

A total of 120 camps are affected and either have to be evacuated or postpone their trips because of the weather, Gilles Beckers, spokesman for the Scouts of Belgium, told the 24-hour news channel LN24.

The French government said that 40 rescuers from its Civil Security Training and Intervention Unit, as well as a helicopter with two water rescue specialists on board, were on their way to Belgium to help.

They are being deployed as part of the European Union's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid.

Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter on Thursday morning that the bloc "is ready to help" and that countries impacted by the floods can call on the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

"My thoughts are with the families of the victims of the devastating floods in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands and with those who have lost their homes."

Italy and Austria have also offered flood rescue teams to Belgium, the Commission said, while the EU's Copernicus emergency satellite mapping is providing assessment maps of the affected areas.

Flood risk in north-east France

France is also being battered by heavy rainfalls with 11 north-eastern départements still under amber warning on Thursday morning due to the risk of floodings.

MeteoFrance said that up to 90 mm of rain could fall over these areas on Thursday, which represents three weeks to a month of rain. It stressed that up to 70mm of rain have already fallen in large swathes of the northeast since Tuesday and that "the soils are already saturated with water and mudflows possible in sloping areas."

Dutch evacuations

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 tasks including transporting evacuees and filling sandbags as rivers burst their banks. There were no reports of injuries linked to flooding in the Netherlands.

Swiss lakes at risk of flooding

In Switzerland, the heavy rainfalls have saturated the soil and caused landslides and mudslides.

Authorities in Geneva recommend not to walk along rivers and not to go down the Rhône due to high flow conditions. The level of Lake Geneva is also of concern to the authorities.

The risk of flooding was high on the shores of Lake Zurich and the Limmat River and authorities have also urged people not to go to forests for safety reasons after violent storms and gusts of winds exceeding 100 km/h feel trees.

Lake Lucerne, in central Switzerland, also poses a very high risk of flooding, warned MeteoSchweiz, while the lakes of Thun, Biel, the Upper Rhine and the Reuss River are at high risk.

Several mountain passes and tunnels have been closed, and rail traffic has been disrupted in several parts of the country, according to the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB). — Euronews

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