- Houses collapse after river Ahr burst south of Bonn
- More deaths in flooding of basements, two firefighters lose their lives
- Transport disrupted, navigation on the Rhine suspended
- More heavy rains expected in southwestern Germany
SCHULD, Germany, July 15 (Reuters) – At least 42 people died in Germany and dozens were missing on Thursday as record rainfall in Western Europe caused rivers to overflow, wash homes and flood basements.
Eighteen people died and dozens were missing around the wine region of Ahrweiler in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, police said, after the river Ahr which flows into the Rhine rose and made fall half a dozen houses.
Another 15 people died in the Euskirchen region south of the city of Bonn, authorities said. In Belgium, two men died from torrential rains and a 15-year-old girl was reported missing after being washed away by a swollen river.
Hundreds of soldiers were assisting police in rescue efforts in Germany, using tanks to clear roads of landslides and fallen trees, while helicopters winched those stranded on rooftops to bring them to safety.
In Ahrweiler, two wrecked cars leaned either side of the town’s stone gate, and locals used snow shovels and brooms to sweep mud from their homes and shops after the floodwaters receded .
“I was totally surprised. I had thought that water would get here someday, but nothing like it,” local man Michael Ahrend told Reuters TV. “It’s not a war – it’s just nature striking. Finally, we should start paying attention.”
The floods caused the worst loss of life in Germany in years. The 2002 floods killed 21 people in eastern Germany and more than 100 across the central European region.
Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her dismay.
“I am shocked at the disaster that so many people in the flooded areas have to endure. My sympathy goes out to the families of the dead and missing.
Armin Laschet, the Tory candidate to succeed Merkel as chancellor in the September general election and prime minister of the hard-hit state of North Rhine-Westphalia, blamed the extreme weather on global warming.
“We will be faced with such events again and again, and this means that we must accelerate climate protection measures, at European, federal and global levels, because climate change is not confined to a single state”, a- he said during a visit to the area.
Climate and environmental issues are one of the main battlegrounds of the election campaign, in which Laschet faces social democratic candidate Olaf Scholz and Annalena Baerbock of the Greens.
In Belgium, around ten houses collapsed in Pepinster after the Vesdre river flooded the eastern town and residents were evacuated from more than 1,000 houses.
The rain also caused serious disruption to public transport, with the cancellation of Thalys high-speed train services to Germany. Traffic on the Meuse is also suspended, with the main Belgian waterway threatening to sever its banks.
Downstream in the Netherlands, flooding rivers damaged many homes in the southern province of Limburg, where several care homes were evacuated.
In addition to the deaths in the Euskirchen region, nine other people, including two firefighters, have died elsewhere in North Rhine-Westphalia.
In the town of Schuld, houses have been reduced to piles of debris and broken beams. The roads were blocked by wreckage and fallen trees.
“What I went through? It was catastrophic,” said Edgar Gillessen, a 65-year-old retiree, whose parental home had been damaged.
“All these people who live here, I know them all. I feel so sorry for them, they lost everything. A friend had a workshop there, nothing standing, the bakery, the butcher, everything is gone. C ‘is scary. Unimaginable. “
Further down the Rhine, the heaviest rainfall ever measured over a 24-hour period caused flooding in cities like Cologne and Hagen, while in Leverkusen, 400 people had to be evacuated from a hospital.
In Wuppertal, known for its aerial railway, residents said their cellars had been flooded and electricity had been cut. “I can’t even guess the extent of the damage,” said Karl-Heinz Sammann, owner of the Kitchen Club nightclub.
Weather experts said the rains in the region over the past 24 hours had been unprecedented, as a near-stationary low-pressure weather system also caused sustained local downpours to the west in France, Belgium and the Pays -Low.
The rainwater flowing into the Rhine, where maritime traffic was partly suspended, was to test the flood defenses along the river, especially in Cologne, on the Lower Rhine, and in Koblenz, where the Rhine and Moselle rivers merge.
Additional reporting by Riham Alkousaa, Matthias Inverardi, Bart Meijer in Amsterdam and Phil Blenkinsop in Brussels; Written by Emma Thomasson and Douglas Busvine; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Raissa Kasolowsky and Alison Williams
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