At Least 1,300 Unaccounted For In Germany After Unprecedented Floods Sweep Country
More than 100 people have died and more than 1,000 are unaccounted for after record rainfall in Germany caused the worst flooding seen in the country in decades.
The western states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia were worst affected, with parts of Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands also experiencing severe floods.
In Ahrweiler, a district in Rhineland-Palatinate, officials said at least 1,300 people were unaccounted for, with communications hampered by damaged infrastructure. A total of 15,000 police, soldiers and emergency service workers have been deployed to help in search and rescue efforts, however local authorities say the death toll is expected to rise further in the coming days.
Rhineland-Palatinate regional interior minister, Roger Lewentz, told local broadcaster WDR, ‘when you haven’t heard [from] people for such a long time… you have to fear the worst. The number of victims will likely keep rising.’
A number of firefighters are understood to have died after being swept away by floodwaters, while several elderly residents are also believed to have drowned while waiting to be evacuated. In Rhineland-Palatinate, officials said that nine residents of a disabled assisted living facility were among the 50 people confirmed to have died in the state.
Thousands of people are homeless after being forced to evacuate towns where houses have either been destroyed or deemed at risk of collapse, with some of the worst affect areas said to look as if they had been hit by a ‘tsunami’.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is currently in Washington DC visiting President Biden, said, ‘my empathy and my heart go out to all of those who in this catastrophe lost their loved ones, or who are still worrying about the fate of people still missing,’ adding, ‘I fear that we will only see the full extent of the disaster in the coming days.’
The threat to the region is not over, with more rainfall forecast in the coming days. Some have blamed authorities for failing to prepare for extreme weather events such as these, with hydrologist Hannah Cloke telling BBC News ‘forecasters issued alerts early in the week, and yet the warnings were not taken seriously enough and preparations were inadequate’.
Germany’s interior minister Horst Seehofer acknowledged that the floods were a ‘consequence of climate change’, and said that Germany ‘must prepare much better’ for similar events in the future.
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