1,000 missing in western Germany and Belgium floods
More than 1,000 people were missing in flood-stricken regions of western Germany and Belgium on Friday, where waters were still rising with the death toll already well over 100 and communications in some areas cut.
Entire communities lay in ruins after swollen rivers swept through towns and villages in the western German states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, Belgium as well as the Netherlands.
“It was terrible not to able to help people,” Frank Thel, a resident of Schuld in Rhineland-Palatinate, told Reuters in front of a pile of rubble. “They were waving at us from windows. Houses were collapsing to the left and right of them and in the house between they were waving.”
In Germany alone, 103 people have died in what is the country’s worst mass loss of life in years. Twelve of the dead were residents of a home for disabled people in Sinzig south of Cologne who were surprised by the flash floods during the night.
The death toll is expected to rise further as more houses collapsed, while in Belgium, media said at least 14 had died.
Some 114,000 households in Germany were without power on Friday and mobile phone networks had collapsed in some flooded regions, which meant that family and friends were unable to track down their loved ones.
Thousands of residents in the north of the Limburg province in neighbouring Netherlands were ordered to leave their homes early on Friday as floodwaters peaked.
Emergency services were on high alert, and authorities were also reinforcing dykes along vulnerable stretches.
Waters were receding in the southern city of Maastricht, where there was no flooding and in the town of Valkenburg, where damage was widespread, but no one was hurt. In Belgium, at least four people were missing. The Belgium crisis centre has urged people in large parts of the south and east of the country not to travel.
France sent 40 military and a helicopter to Liege in Belgium to help with the flood situation, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Twitter.
“The waters are rising more and more. It’s scary,” Thierry Bourgeois, 52, said in Liege, Belgium. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” In the town of Maaseik, on the Dutch border, the Meuse had risen beyond a retaining wall and was spilling past bags placed on top.