The Jerusalem Post

Death toll rises to 170 in Germany, Belgium floods

Merkel to visit Rhineland today • ‘Everything is completely destroyed. You don’t recognize the scenery’

- • By PETRA WISCHGOLL and DAVID SAHL

ERFTSTADT/WASSENBERG, Germany (Reuters) – The death toll in devastatin­g flooding in western Germany and Belgium rose to at least 170 on Saturday after burst rivers and flash floods this week collapsed houses and ripped up roads and power lines.

The 141 people who have died in the flooding in Germany’s worst natural disaster in more than half a century included 98 in the Ahrweiler district south of Cologne, according to police.

Hundreds of people were still missing or unreachabl­e as several areas were inaccessib­le due to high water levels while communicat­ion in some places was still down.

Residents and business owners struggled to pick up the pieces in battered towns.

“Everything is completely destroyed. You don’t recognize the scenery,” said Michael Lang, owner of a wine shop in the town of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler in Ahrweiler, fighting back tears.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Erftstadt in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where the disaster killed at least 43 people.

“We mourn with those that have lost friends, acquaintan­ces, family members,” he said. “Their fate is ripping our hearts apart.”

Around 700 residents were evacuated late on Friday after a dam broke in the town of Wassenberg near Cologne, authoritie­s said.

But Wassenberg Mayor Marcel Maurer said water levels had been stabilizin­g since the night. “It’s too early to give the all-clear but we are cautiously optimistic,” he said.

The Steinbacht­al dam in western Germany, however, remained at risk of breaching, authoritie­s said after some 4,500 people were evacuated from homes downstream.

Steinmeier said it would take weeks before the full damage, expected to require several billions of euros in reconstruc­tion funds, could be assessed.

Armin Laschet, state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia and the ruling CDU party’s candidate in September’s general election, said he would speak to Finance Minister Olaf Scholz in the coming days about financial support.

Chancellor Angela Merkel was expected to travel on Sunday to Rhineland Palatinate, the state that is home to the devastated village of Schuld.

In Belgium, the death toll rose to 27, according to the national crisis center, which is coordinati­ng the relief operation there.

It added that 103 people were “missing or unreachabl­e.” Some were likely unreachabl­e because they could not recharge mobile phones or were in hospital without identity papers, the center said.

Over the past several days the floods, which have mostly hit the German states of Rhineland Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia and eastern Belgium, have cut off entire communitie­s from power and communicat­ions.

RWE, Germany’s largest power producer, said on Saturday its opencast mine in Inden and the Weisweiler coal-fired power plant were massively affected, adding that the plant was running at lower capacity after the situation stabilized.

The utility expects damages to be in the mid double-digit million euro range.

In the southern Belgian provinces of Luxembourg and Namur, authoritie­s rushed to supply drinking water to households without a clean supply.

Water levels slowly fell in the worst hit parts of Belgium, allowing residents to sort through damaged possession­s. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited some areas on Saturday afternoon.

Belgian rail network operator Infrabel published plans of repairs to lines, some of which would be back in service only at the very end of August.

Emergency services in the Netherland­s also remained on high alert as overflowin­g rivers threatened towns and villages throughout the southern province of Limburg.

Tens of thousands of residents in the region have been evacuated in the past two days, while soldiers, fire brigades and volunteers worked franticall­y throughout Friday night to reenforce dykes and prevent flooding.

The Dutch have so far escaped disaster on the scale of its neighbors, and as of Saturday morning no casualties had been reported.

Scientists have long said that climate change will lead to heavier downpours. But determinin­g its role in these relentless rainfalls will take at least several weeks to research, scientists said on Friday.

 ?? (Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters) ?? DESTROYED PROPERTY in a flooded area following heavy rainfalls in Kreuzberg, Germany.
(Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters) DESTROYED PROPERTY in a flooded area following heavy rainfalls in Kreuzberg, Germany.

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