At least 153 dead and 1,000 missing in devastating floods that hit Germany and Belgium

16 July 2021, 07:20 | Updated: 17 July 2021, 07:12

By Joe Cook

At least 153 people have died and more than 1,000 are unaccounted for after devastating flooding hit Germany and Belgium.

In Germany, at least 133 people have died and hundreds more are unaccounted for, while Belgium has also reported at least 20 dead after the extreme weather.

The number of people who have been forced to flee their homes is understood to run into the thousands.

Torrential rainfall began overnight on Wednesday, causing rivers to burst their banks and sweep houses off their foundations.

LBC's Europe Correspondent Lucy Hough reports that rescue efforts "are far from over", with more bad weather forecast through the weekend.

The water rose rapidly on Wednesday night in Schuld after the Ahr river burst its banks.
The water rose rapidly on Wednesday night in Schuld after the Ahr river burst its banks. Picture: PA
A resident looks at the damage caused by the flooding of the Nahma in Hagen, North Rhine-Westphalia. Heavy rain turned the small river into a raging torrent.
A resident looks at the damage caused by the flooding of the Nahma in Hagen, North Rhine-Westphalia. Heavy rain turned the small river into a raging torrent. Picture: PA
The flooding has made buildings uninhabitable and caused mudslides in some areas.
The flooding has made many buildings uninhabitable and caused mudslides in some areas. Picture: PA

Speaking at the White House during her final trip to Washington as German chancellor Angela Merkel described the flooding as "a catastrophe" and said she feared "the full extent of this tragedy will only be seen in the coming days".

"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," she told reporters.

"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."

Angela Merkel described the flooding as a "catastrophe" during a trip to Washington.
Angela Merkel described the flooding as a "catastrophe" during a trip to Washington. Picture: PA
The Germany village of Schuld was decimated after the water rose rapidly on Wednesday night.
The Germany village of Schuld was decimated after the water rose rapidly on Wednesday night. Picture: PA

The German states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia were worst affected, but Belgium and the Netherlands were also badly hit.

The Associated Press said 60 people are reported dead in Rhineland-Palatinate, including 12 residents in an assisted living facility for people with disabilities in Sinzig, and and 43 people have died in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Across the devastated areas, more than 1,000 people are thought to be missing but the figure may be inflated by multiple missing persons reports being filed for the same individuals.

On Thursday, the floodwaters of the Inde River overflowed a dike and flowed into the Inden opencast mine in North Rhine-Westphalia.
On Thursday, the floodwaters of the Inde River overflowed a dike and flowed into the Inden opencast mine in North Rhine-Westphalia. Picture: PA
German Technical Relief workers have been pumping water out of the Steinbach dam, which is in danger of collapsing.
German Technical Relief workers have been pumping water out of the Steinbach dam, which is in danger of collapsing. Picture: PA

In the hard-hit town of Schuld people were forced to climb onto the roofs of their houses to await rescue, with rescue efforts still ongoing across Germany.

In Germany, 300 soldiers have been drafted in to help the efforts, with tanks used to clear roads strewn with debris and rubble.

Relief workers have also been pumping water out of the Steinbach dam, amidst concerns it could collapse.

A firefighter holds a fish she picked up on the street in Erkrath.
A firefighter holds a fish she picked up on the street in Erkrath. Picture: PA
The German army have deployed tanks to help clear roads.
The German army have deployed tanks to help clear roads. Picture: PA
Tim stands in the rubble of his house in the village of Shuld, in the district of Ahrweiler. At least six houses were destroyed by the floods.
Tim stands in the rubble of his house in the village of Shuld, in the district of Ahrweiler. At least six houses were destroyed by the floods. Picture: PA

Power and communication lines have been destroyed by the flooding, hampering the efforts of emergency services and leaving thousands worried about their loved ones.

Andreas Mueller was forced to wait hours to know if his in-laws were safe after several homes collapsed in the German village of Schuld.

"Overnight they were upstairs and it was dark because there was no light, no power, and there was also no phone connection. So we tried to reach them all night and it was very hard," he explained.

In Belgium, at least 20 deaths have been reported and another 20 people remain missing.

Tragically three fire-fighters are missing in the western Belgian city of Liege after a rescue boat overturned during an evacuation effort.

There has also been further flooding in Luxembourg and Switzerland.

The normally picturesque Lake Lucerne in Switzerland is close to bursting its banks.