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At least 170 dead in Germany and Belgium floods as water starts to recede
17 July 2021, 17:56 | Updated: 18 July 2021, 12:06
At least 170 people have died in floods across Germany and Belgium, according to new tolls on Saturday afternoon.
Swathes of those countries have been devastated by the flooding and landslides while evacuation and rescue operations got under way.
"A lot of people have lost everything they spent their lives building up - their possessions, their home, the roof over their heads," German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after a meeting with rescue workers in the town of Erftstadt, where authorities worry some people did not manage to escape.
The hardest hit region is Germany's Rhineland-Palatinate state, where more than 90 people are known to have died in just one county, Ahrweiler.
At least 143 people have died in Germany, with the state of North Rhine-Westphalia also badly-hit, while 27 people are reported to have died in Belgium.
About 700 people also had to be evacuated from Wassenberg, Germany, near the Dutch border, after a dyke on the Rur river was breached.
Meanwhile, Sky News reports German officials have told people there is "no all clear" and parts of a dam near Cologne have broken away amid fears it could crack. An evacuation has been under way.
There were fears the weather could worsen but the water is receding in many affected parts.
However, officials worry more bodies may yet be found in cars and trucks that got swept away by the floods.
Mr Steinmeier said it could be weeks before compensation for damage is cleared up and said those affected needed support.
"Many people here in these regions have nothing left but their hope, and we must not disappoint this hope," he said.
German chancellor Angela Merkel has described the flooding as "a catastrophe".
She said earlier in the week from the White House in the US: "My thoughts at this time are with those back home, from here I want to send them a sign of condolence and solidarity.
"I hope my messages reach my European colleagues, who can show solidarity with Germany and offer their help.
"Hundreds of thousands of people all of a sudden were faced with catastrophe, their houses were literally death traps, small rivers turned into flooded, devastating rivers.
"My empathy and my heart goes 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 and I include Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands who have also suffered from flooding."
She plans to visit Rhineland-Palatinate on Sunday.
In Ahrweiler, police have issued a warning about downed power lines and urged people who wanted to see the damage to stay away because they have clogged some of the roads.
The German military was using armoured vehicles to clear cars and trucks, which in some cases were still partly underwater.
Electricity and phone services are down in many places. This could partly explain the large number of missing people reported earlier in the week, along with the fact that multiple reports for the same person were counted.
Outside of Germany, Belgium has seen its train lines and roads in the east of the country become blocked, with rail services to begin getting back to normal on Monday.
Volunteers in the Netherlands shored up dykes after its southern regions saw heavy flooding.
Residents in southern towns there were allowed home after they were evacuated on Thursday and Friday.
Mark Rutte, the Dutch caretaker prime minister, visited on Friday and said the area had faced "three disasters" – Covid, floods and now the work on recovery.
Switzerland has also seen heavy rain lead to some flooding.