At least 40 dead after floods in Germany, several missing (VIDEO)

Thursday, 15 July 2021 (17:24 IST)
At least 40 people have died in parts of western Germany amid heavy rains and flooding, local police said on Thursday. Most of the deaths have been reported in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate.

Four people died and 70 were missing around the wine-growing region of Ahrweiler, in Germany's western Rhineland-Palatinate state, police said, after the Ahr river that flows into the Rhine burst its banks and brought down half a dozen houses.

Several also went missing after six houses collapsed in the same state, following hours of torrential rain. About 25 more buildings in the Schuld region were at the risk of caving in, local police said.

"We currently have an unclear number of people on roofs who need to be rescued," a spokesperson for the Koblenz police said. Reports suggest about 50 people have been trapped on roofs to escape the flooding.

"There are many places where fire brigades and rescue workers have been deployed. We do not yet have a very precise picture because rescue measures are continuing," the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered her condolences to the families of victims, in a statement tweeted by government spokesman Steffen Seibert.

"I am shocked by the disaster that has affected so many people in the #Hochwasser Areas have to suffer because of. My condolences go out to the relatives of the dead and missing. I thank the many tireless helpers and emergency services from the bottom of my heart."

DW reporter Marie Sina visited the town of Heimerzheim in North Rhine-Westphalia, where residents several homes were flooded overnight. "I spoke to local residents who were evacuated by rescue boat in the early morning hours. The water flooded the entire basement and ground floor of their houses. Many fear they won’t be able to live in their homes for the coming months."

Rescue personnel among the dead

As emergency workers struggle to evacuate people, two firemen were killed in the line of duty in the towns of Altena and Wedohl in North Rhine-Westphalia. Two men, aged 77 and 82, died as their basements got flooded in the cities of Kamen and Wuppertal, police said.

Heavy rains lashed western Germany on Wednesday, causing massive property damage and prompting mass evacuations. Several motorways were closed.

Rhineland-Palatinate’s Vulkaneifel district was forced to declare a state of emergency as several areas were not accessible due to the torrential rain.

"The situation is very serious, we have many flooded roads and villages that are no longer accessible," District Administrator Julia Gieseking said from the town of Daun late Wednesday.

German military joins rescue efforts

The German Army sent over 230 soldiers and heavy machinery to help clear streets affected by flooding. The troops were deployed along with heavy equipment and armored vehicles in North Rhine-Westphalia, which saw some of the worst torrential rain, a Defense Ministry spokesman said in Berlin.

Live aus #Hagen - #Hochwasser in #NRW: Auch die #Versorger aus #Unna sind mit Feldumschlaggerät und Bergepanzer bereits seit gestern Abend (!) im Einsatz. Mit den #Pionier|en aus #Minden sind schon über 230 #Soldatinnen und #Soldaten des #Heer|es vor Ort. #FuerEuchGemeinsamStark.

— Heer (@Deutsches_Heer) July 15, 2021

In the neighboring state of Rhineland Palatinate, at least 70 soldiers were on the road, with large multi-purpose vehicles capable of traversing high waters to reach flooded villages. Four rescue and transport helicopters were also deployed.

Power, water supplies cut

About 200,000 households in western Germany were left without electricity, the country's biggest power distribution grid company Westnetz said, as flooding continues.

The company’s grid supplies around 7.5 million in large parts of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate with power, gas, water and heat.

"We are trying to resolve the situation with all available hands on deck," a spokesperson for the company said in response to an inquiry.

Flooding also disrupted the supply of drinking water in the town of Eschweiler, near the city of Aachen.

Heavy rains to continue

The German Weather Service has warned that southwestern parts of the country could expect heavy rainstorms on Thursday, with continuous downpour until Friday evening.

Germany's flood crisis escalated with the army deployed in worst-hit areas amid mass evacuations, dozens missing and fears that death toll will climb higher.

At least 20 people have died after they were unable to escape raging flood waters, @dpa

— Dana Regev (@Dana_Regev) July 15, 2021

"We haven't seen a disaster like this. It's just devastating," Rhineland-Palatinate’s state premier Malu Dreyer told the regional parliament, which held a minute’s silence for those affected by the floods.

"There are dead, there are missing, there are many who are still in danger," she said.

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