At least 44 dead, dozens missing in Western Europe floods

A general view of flood-affected area following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany

(REUTERS): At least 42 people have died in Germany and dozens were missing as swollen rivers caused by record rainfall across western Europe swept through towns and villages, leaving cars upended and houses destroyed.

According to details, eighteen people died around the wine-growing region of Ahrweiler, in Rhineland-Palatinate state after the Ahr river that flows into the Rhine rose and brought down half a dozen houses.

Another 15 people died in the Euskirchen region south of the city of Bonn. In Belgium, two men died due to the torrential rain and a 15-year-old girl was missing after being swept away by a swollen river.

Hundreds of soldiers were helping police with the rescue efforts in Germany, using tanks to clear roads of landslides and fallen trees, while helicopters winched those stranded on rooftops to safety.

In Belgium, around 10 houses collapsed in Pepinster after the river Vesdre flooded the eastern town and residents were evacuated from more than 1,000 homes.

The rain also caused severe disruption to public transport, with high-speed Thalys train services to Germany cancelled. Downstream in the Netherlands, flooding rivers damaged many houses in the southern province of Limburg, where several care homes were evacuated.

In addition to the fatalities in the Euskirchen region, another nine people, including two firefighters, died elsewhere in North Rhine-Westphalia. In the town of Schuld, houses were reduced to piles of debris and broken beams. Roads were blocked by wreckage and fallen trees.

Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her dismay. “I am 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,” she added.

The floods have caused Germany’s worst mass loss of life in years. Flooding in 2002 killed 21 people in eastern Germany and more than 100 across the wider central European region.