Dozens dead and missing after torrential rain triggered flooding in Europe

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More than 20 people have died and 70 more are missing after torrential rain triggered flash flooding in across Europe overnight – with homes and cars swept away in Germany and parts of Belgium underwater.

The hardest-hit was western Germany where at least 21 people were killed, spread across its most-populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia and neighbouring Rhineland-Palatinate.

The town of Schuld, south of Bonn, was particularly badly affected – with at least four dead and dozens more missing after six homes collapsed when the Ahr river burst its banks. 

Eight people also died in the Euskirchen region while two firefighters were killed elsewhere during rescue efforts. 300 soldiers were deployed to help rescue teams today, along with helicopters and inflatable boats.

Malu Dreyer, premier of Rhineland-Palatinate state, described the situation as ‘a catastrophe’, adding: ‘There are dead, missing and many still in danger. Our emergency services are in action… and risking their own lives.’ 

In Belgium, at least four people died including two men who were swept away in the flooding while a 15-year-old girl was also reported missing. Ten houses collapsed in the municipality of Pepinster after the river Vesdre flooded, with residents evacuated from more than 1,000 homes.

‘We have rarely experienced such intense flooding. You have to go back to 1998 to have experienced this,’ Chaudefontaine mayor Daniel Bacquelaine told RTL radio. 

Residents of South Limburg, in the Netherlands, also had to be evacuated after flooding there overnight, though no casualties were reported. 

Flooding also hit Switzerland as rivers burst their banks, while similar scenes played out in Luxembourg. French forecasters also issued severe weather warnings for the east of the country today. 

GERMANY: The village of Schuld (pictured) was partially destroyed by flooding overnight that swept away six homes killing at least four people – though dozens more have been reported missing

GERMANY: Schuld was badly damaged after the Ahr river which flows around it burst its banks, sending torrents of water through the streets which then swept away houses and cars

GERMANY: Schuld was badly damaged after the Ahr river which flows around it burst its banks, sending torrents of water through the streets which then swept away houses and cars

GERMANY: Schuld was badly damaged after the Ahr river which flows around it burst its banks, sending torrents of water through the streets which then swept away houses and cars

GERMANY: At least four people died and dozens more are missing after flooding destroyed large parts of the town of Sculd

GERMANY: At least four people died and dozens more are missing after flooding destroyed large parts of the town of Sculd

GERMANY: At least four people died and dozens more are missing after flooding destroyed large parts of the town of Sculd

BELGIUM: A woman wades through a flooded street in Liege after heavy rains hit the area and caused widespread flooding

BELGIUM: People evacuate their flooded homes in the city of Liege, Belgium, after torrential rains left their street underwater

BELGIUM: People evacuate their flooded homes in the city of Liege, Belgium, after torrential rains left their street underwater

BELGIUM: People evacuate their flooded homes in the city of Liege, Belgium, after torrential rains left their street underwater

NETHERLANDS: The fire brigade evacuate people from their homes in South Limburg, the Netherlands, after towns were flooded amid torrential rain

NETHERLANDS: The fire brigade evacuate people from their homes in South Limburg, the Netherlands, after towns were flooded amid torrential rain

NETHERLANDS: The fire brigade evacuate people from their homes in South Limburg, the Netherlands, after towns were flooded amid torrential rain

NETHERLANDS: Homes, a care home and a hospice all had to be evacuated in South Limburg province, the Netherlands, overnight Wednesday and Thursday morning after intense flooding

NETHERLANDS: Homes, a care home and a hospice all had to be evacuated in South Limburg province, the Netherlands, overnight Wednesday and Thursday morning after intense flooding

NETHERLANDS: Homes, a care home and a hospice all had to be evacuated in South Limburg province, the Netherlands, overnight Wednesday and Thursday morning after intense flooding

SWITZERLAND: People rush to remove their belongings from a flooded campsite in Ottenbach after the nearby Reuss river burst its banks amid heavy downpours

SWITZERLAND: People rush to remove their belongings from a flooded campsite in Ottenbach after the nearby Reuss river burst its banks amid heavy downpours

SWITZERLAND: People rush to remove their belongings from a flooded campsite in Ottenbach after the nearby Reuss river burst its banks amid heavy downpours

SWITZERLAND: The village square of Stansstad, near the city of Lucerne, is seen underwater with residents forced to walk across raised platforms after heavy rain hit Europe

SWITZERLAND: The village square of Stansstad, near the city of Lucerne, is seen underwater with residents forced to walk across raised platforms after heavy rain hit Europe

SWITZERLAND: The village square of Stansstad, near the city of Lucerne, is seen underwater with residents forced to walk across raised platforms after heavy rain hit Europe

An armoured vehicle rolls through the streets close to Hagen, Germany, after the army was drafted in to help flood victims

An armoured vehicle rolls through the streets close to Hagen, Germany, after the army was drafted in to help flood victims

An armoured vehicle rolls through the streets close to Hagen, Germany, after the army was drafted in to help flood victims

A car is seen covered in rubble in the German town of Hagen, south of Dortmund, after it was hit by flooding overnight

A car is seen covered in rubble in the German town of Hagen, south of Dortmund, after it was hit by flooding overnight

A car is seen covered in rubble in the German town of Hagen, south of Dortmund, after it was hit by flooding overnight

Damaged cars are seen along a street in Hagen, western Germany, after flooding washed tons of rubble down the street

Damaged cars are seen along a street in Hagen, western Germany, after flooding washed tons of rubble down the street

Damaged cars are seen along a street in Hagen, western Germany, after flooding washed tons of rubble down the street

A woman cleans a shop entrance after flooding in the town of Bad Muenstereifel, south of the city of Bonn and located along the banks of the Erft river

A woman cleans a shop entrance after flooding in the town of Bad Muenstereifel, south of the city of Bonn and located along the banks of the Erft river

A woman cleans a shop entrance after flooding in the town of Bad Muenstereifel, south of the city of Bonn and located along the banks of the Erft river

Emergency crews join the cleanup operation after downpours overnight in Hagen, Germany, triggered flash flooding

Emergency crews join the cleanup operation after downpours overnight in Hagen, Germany, triggered flash flooding

Emergency crews join the cleanup operation after downpours overnight in Hagen, Germany, triggered flash flooding

Damaged houses are seen along the Ahr river in Insul, western Germany, after it broke its banks overnight

Damaged houses are seen along the Ahr river in Insul, western Germany, after it broke its banks overnight

Damaged houses are seen along the Ahr river in Insul, western Germany, after it broke its banks overnight

Due to heavy rain falls the Ahr river dramatically went over its banks overnight Wednesday, demolishing nearby homes

Due to heavy rain falls the Ahr river dramatically went over its banks overnight Wednesday, demolishing nearby homes

Due to heavy rain falls the Ahr river dramatically went over its banks overnight Wednesday, demolishing nearby homes 

A damaged car is seen in Insul at the Ahr river, western Germany, after being swept away in the flood

A damaged car is seen in Insul at the Ahr river, western Germany, after being swept away in the flood

A damaged car is seen in Insul at the Ahr river, western Germany, after being swept away in the flood

A car rests on its roof after being swept away in floodwaters at Insul, on the banks of the Ahr river, Germany

A car rests on its roof after being swept away in floodwaters at Insul, on the banks of the Ahr river, Germany

A car rests on its roof after being swept away in floodwaters at Insul, on the banks of the Ahr river, Germany

The entire village of Schuld in the district of Ahrweiler is destroyed after heavy flooding of the river Ahr,

The entire village of Schuld in the district of Ahrweiler is destroyed after heavy flooding of the river Ahr,

The entire village of Schuld in the district of Ahrweiler is destroyed after heavy flooding of the river Ahr,

The village of Schuld was among the worst-hit overnight with dozens reported missing after houses there collapsed

The village of Schuld was among the worst-hit overnight with dozens reported missing after houses there collapsed

The village of Schuld was among the worst-hit overnight with dozens reported missing after houses there collapsed

An overturned tractor and wrecked Mercedes are among debris left strewn through the city of Schuld after it was hit by floods

An overturned tractor and wrecked Mercedes are among debris left strewn through the city of Schuld after it was hit by floods

An overturned tractor and wrecked Mercedes are among debris left strewn through the city of Schuld after it was hit by floods

The flooding took place after particularly heavy downpours overnight which fell onto sodden ground that had already been drenched through Tuesday and Thursday.

That sparked flash flooding while also causing swollen rivers and lakes to burst their banks. 

In Belgium, the Vesdre river broke its banks and sent masses of water churning through the streets of Pepinster, close to Liege, its destructive power bringing down some buildings.

‘Several homes have collapsed,’ mayor Philippe Godin told RTBF network. It was unclear whether all inhabitants had been able to escape unhurt.

In eastern Eupen, on the German border, one man was reported dead after he was swept away by a torrent, a local governor told RTBF network. 

Chancellor Angela Merkel added that she is ‘shocked’ by the extent of the ‘devastation’ caused by the flooding. 

At least 135,000 people in Germany were also left without power after torrents of water ripped electricity poles out of the ground. 

In the city of Leverkusen, a power outage triggered by the storms led to the evacuation of a hospital with 468 patients. Intensive care patients were moved overnight, with other wards still being cleared today.

Another man was reported missing in eastern Belgium, where some towns saw water levels rise to unprecedented levels and had their centers turned into gushing rivers.

The provinces of Liege and Namur were especially affected, with the resort town of Spa completely flooded. In the town of Chaudfontaine, daily Le Soir reported that nearly 1,800 people had to evacuate. 

Major highways were inundated and in the south and east of the nation, the railway service said all traffic was stopped.

The southern Dutch province of Limburg which is bordered by Germany and Belgium also reported widespread damage with rising waters threatening to cut off the small city of Valkenburg west of Maastricht.

Local news footage showed small rivers of water flowing through the scenic city centre’s streets and at least one old age home had been evacuated.

Officials also closed off several roads including the busy A2 highway, while fears remained that water from heavy rains in Germany and Belgium would push up river levels as it reached the Netherlands.

Meanwhile the Luxembourg government set up a crisis cell to respond to emergencies triggered by heavy rains overnight as Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said ‘several homes’ had been flooded and were ‘no longer inhabitable’.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged to help those affected. 

The Erft river is seen flowing underneath a damaged bridge in the town of Bad Muenstereifel, Germany

The Erft river is seen flowing underneath a damaged bridge in the town of Bad Muenstereifel, Germany

The Erft river is seen flowing underneath a damaged bridge in the town of Bad Muenstereifel, Germany

Firefighters speak with people next to debris brought by the flood following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

Firefighters speak with people next to debris brought by the flood following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

Firefighters speak with people next to debris brought by the flood following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

Firefighters begin to repair a damaged road after flooding in Schuld, Germany, to assist with rescue efforts

Firefighters begin to repair a damaged road after flooding in Schuld, Germany, to assist with rescue efforts

Firefighters begin to repair a damaged road after flooding in Schuld, Germany, to assist with rescue efforts

A damaged road and a car after flooding in Bad Muenstereifel, Germany

A damaged road and a car after flooding in Bad Muenstereifel, Germany

A damaged road and a car after flooding in Bad Muenstereifel, Germany

The gaping hole is left in the back of a building after it was washed away by sudden flooding in Hagen, Germany

The gaping hole is left in the back of a building after it was washed away by sudden flooding in Hagen, Germany

The gaping hole is left in the back of a building after it was washed away by sudden flooding in Hagen, Germany

A destroyed building is seen at a flood-affected area following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

A destroyed building is seen at a flood-affected area following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

A destroyed building is seen at a flood-affected area following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

Debris brought by the flood new seen on the street following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

Debris brought by the flood new seen on the street following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

Debris brought by the flood new seen on the street following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

Partially submerged vehicles are pictured on a flood-affected area, following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

Partially submerged vehicles are pictured on a flood-affected area, following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

Partially submerged vehicles are pictured on a flood-affected area, following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

Cars destroyed by flood are pictured on a flood-affected area, following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

Cars destroyed by flood are pictured on a flood-affected area, following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

Cars destroyed by flood are pictured on a flood-affected area, following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

Collapsed houses are seen on a flood-affected area following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

Collapsed houses are seen on a flood-affected area following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

Collapsed houses are seen on a flood-affected area following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

Collapsed buildings are seen on a flood-affected area following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

Collapsed buildings are seen on a flood-affected area following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

Collapsed buildings are seen on a flood-affected area following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

Firefighters work at a flood-affected area following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

Firefighters work at a flood-affected area following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

Firefighters work at a flood-affected area following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

A damaged bridge after flooding in Hagen, Germany

A damaged bridge after flooding in Hagen, Germany

A damaged bridge after flooding in Hagen, Germany

A woman looks at debris brought by the flood next to the Ahr river, following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

A woman looks at debris brought by the flood next to the Ahr river, following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

A woman looks at debris brought by the flood next to the Ahr river, following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

A woman wades through floodwaters in the town of Hagen after torrential rain inundated rural areas in western Germany

A woman wades through floodwaters in the town of Hagen after torrential rain inundated rural areas in western Germany

A woman wades through floodwaters in the town of Hagen after torrential rain inundated rural areas in western Germany

A woman evacuates her house in Ensival, Belgium

A woman evacuates her house in Ensival, Belgium

A Belgian policeman helps evacuate a baby girl amid flooding in Ensival

A Belgian policeman helps evacuate a baby girl amid flooding in Ensival

A policeman (right) carries a baby girl as he helps her mother evacuate from a flooded house in Ensival, Belgium

People look a at a destroyed car and other damages caused by the floods of the Volme river in Priorei, near Hagen

People look a at a destroyed car and other damages caused by the floods of the Volme river in Priorei, near Hagen

People look a at a destroyed car and other damages caused by the floods of the Volme river in Priorei, near Hagen

A street running between the towns of Insul and Schuld, in western Germany, was swept away in heavy rains overnight

A street running between the towns of Insul and Schuld, in western Germany, was swept away in heavy rains overnight

A street running between the towns of Insul and Schuld, in western Germany, was swept away in heavy rains overnight

‘My thoughts are with the families of the victims of the devastating floods in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands and those who have lost their homes,’ she tweeted. ‘The EU is ready to help.’

The full extent of the damage across the region was still unclear after many villages were cut off by floodwater and landslides that made roads impassable. 

Videos posted on social media showed cars floating down streets and houses partly collapsed in some places.

Many of the dead were only discovered after floodwaters began to recede again. Police said four people died in separate incidents after their basements were flooded in Cologne, Kamen and Wuppertal, where authorities warned that a dam threatened to burst.

Authorities in the Rhine-Sieg county south of Cologne ordered the evacuation of several villages below the Steinbachtal reservoir amid fears the dam there could also break.  

A fireman drowned Wednesday during rescue work in the western German town of Altena and another collapsed during rescue operations at a power plant in Werdohl-Elverlingsen. 

One man was missing in the eastern town of Joehstadt after disappearing while trying to secure his property from rising waters, authorities said.

Rail connections were suspended in large parts of North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state. Governor Armin Laschet, who is running to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor in this fall’s German election, was expected to visit the flood-hit city of Hagen later Thursday.

German weather service DWD predicted the rainfall would ease Thursday, though there might still be localized storms.

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. 

A man wades through the water as flooding affects the area after heavy rains in Ensival, Verviers, Belgium

A man wades through the water as flooding affects the area after heavy rains in Ensival, Verviers, Belgium

A man wades through the water as flooding affects the area after heavy rains in Ensival, Verviers, Belgium

A man carries a dog next to debris brought by the flood, following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

A man carries a dog next to debris brought by the flood, following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

A man carries a dog next to debris brought by the flood, following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

Emergency workers wade through a flooded road after heavy rains in Ensival, Belgium

Emergency workers wade through a flooded road after heavy rains in Ensival, Belgium

Emergency workers wade through a flooded road after heavy rains in Ensival, Belgium

A woman looks from a building at a flooded road after heavy rains in Ensival, Belgium

A woman looks from a building at a flooded road after heavy rains in Ensival, Belgium

A woman looks from a building at a flooded road after heavy rains in Ensival, Belgium

Emergency workers wade through the water as flooding affects the area after heavy rains in Ensival, Verviers, Belgium

Emergency workers wade through the water as flooding affects the area after heavy rains in Ensival, Verviers, Belgium

Emergency workers wade through the water as flooding affects the area after heavy rains in Ensival, Verviers, Belgium

An excavator is seen on a flooded street in Hagen, Germany

An excavator is seen on a flooded street in Hagen, Germany

An excavator is seen on a flooded street in Hagen, Germany

The Ried neighbourhood on Lake Sarnen in the canton of Obwalden is covered with flood water, in Giswil, Switzerland

The Ried neighbourhood on Lake Sarnen in the canton of Obwalden is covered with flood water, in Giswil, Switzerland

The Ried neighbourhood on Lake Sarnen in the canton of Obwalden is covered with flood water, in Giswil, Switzerland

The village square of Stansstad in the canton of Nidwalden on Lake Vierwaldstaettersee is covered with flood water, in Stansstad, Switzerland

The village square of Stansstad in the canton of Nidwalden on Lake Vierwaldstaettersee is covered with flood water, in Stansstad, Switzerland

The village square of Stansstad in the canton of Nidwalden on Lake Vierwaldstaettersee is covered with flood water, in Stansstad, Switzerland

Emergency workers wade through a flooded road after heavy rains in Ensival, Verviers, Belgium

Emergency workers wade through a flooded road after heavy rains in Ensival, Verviers, Belgium

Emergency workers wade through a flooded road after heavy rains in Ensival, Verviers, Belgium

Cars in the water as flooding affects the area after heavy rains in Ensival, Belgium

Cars in the water as flooding affects the area after heavy rains in Ensival, Belgium

Cars in the water as flooding affects the area after heavy rains in Ensival, Belgium

A man wades through the water as flooding affects the area after heavy rains in Ensival, Belgium

A man wades through the water as flooding affects the area after heavy rains in Ensival, Belgium

A man wades through the water as flooding affects the area after heavy rains in Ensival, Belgium

A damaged bridge after flooding in Hagen, Germany, where the military is now helping with rescue efforts

A damaged bridge after flooding in Hagen, Germany, where the military is now helping with rescue efforts

A damaged bridge after flooding in Hagen, Germany, where the military is now helping with rescue efforts

Evacuated residents of a care home sit inside a bus as they are taken to a reception location, in the municipality of Valkenburg aan de Geul, South Limburg region, the Netherlands

Evacuated residents of a care home sit inside a bus as they are taken to a reception location, in the municipality of Valkenburg aan de Geul, South Limburg region, the Netherlands

Evacuated residents of a care home sit inside a bus as they are taken to a reception location, in the municipality of Valkenburg aan de Geul, South Limburg region, the Netherlands

Police officers in an army vehicle evacuate residents of a care home, in the municipality of Valkenburg aan de Geul, South Limburg region, the Netherlands

Police officers in an army vehicle evacuate residents of a care home, in the municipality of Valkenburg aan de Geul, South Limburg region, the Netherlands

Police officers in an army vehicle evacuate residents of a care home, in the municipality of Valkenburg aan de Geul, South Limburg region, the Netherlands

Ambulance personnel and police officers stand inside an army vehicle to evacuate residents of a care home, in the municipality of Valkenburg aan de Geul, South Limburg region, the Netherlands

Ambulance personnel and police officers stand inside an army vehicle to evacuate residents of a care home, in the municipality of Valkenburg aan de Geul, South Limburg region, the Netherlands

Ambulance personnel and police officers stand inside an army vehicle to evacuate residents of a care home, in the municipality of Valkenburg aan de Geul, South Limburg region, the Netherlands

Armin Laschet, State Premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, speaks to the media after flooding in his state and neighbouring Rhineland-Palatinate left at least 20 dead and 70 missing

Armin Laschet, State Premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, speaks to the media after flooding in his state and neighbouring Rhineland-Palatinate left at least 20 dead and 70 missing

Armin Laschet, State Premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, speaks to the media after flooding in his state and neighbouring Rhineland-Palatinate left at least 20 dead and 70 missing

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.

A section of one of the Netherlands’ busiest highways was closed due to rising floodwaters threatening to inundate the road and Dutch media showed a group of holidaymakers being rescued from a hotel window with the help of an earth mover.

Unusually intense rains have also inundated a swath of northeast France this week, downing trees and forcing the closure of dozens of roads. 

A train route to Luxembourg was disrupted, and firefighters evacuated dozens of people from homes near the Luxembourg and German border and in the Marne region, according to local broadcaster France Bleu.

The equivalent of two months of rain has fallen on some areas in the last one or two days, according to the French national weather service. With the ground already saturated, the service forecast more downpours Thursday and issued flood warnings for 10 regions.

Meanwhile, high temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher were expected Thursday in parts of northern Europe.

The night between Wednesday and Thursday was the hottest in history, the Finnish weather service company Foreca said Thursday with the mercury reaching 24.2 Celsius degrees (75.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Greta Thunberg, the climate activist, tweeted that the extreme weather of recent days should not be regarded as ‘the new normal.’

‘We’re at the very beginning of a climate and ecological emergency, and extreme weather events will only become more and more frequent,’ she said on Twitter.

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