Europe flooding death toll passes 180 as rescue efforts continue

18 July 2021, 20:40 | Updated: 19 July 2021, 13:34

By Joe Cook

The death toll from flash flooding in Germany and Belgium has surpassed 180, as the cleanup continues and rescue workers dig deeper into debris to search for victims.

Police in Germany say the death toll has risen to 158 confirmed dead, with Belgium also confirming 31 casualties, but there are fears the numbers could still rise.

As the flood waters recede, the German military has been using armoured vehicles to clear away cars and trucks overwhelmed by the water, with rescue workers checking inside vehicles for casualties.

It comes after days of heavy rain turned normally minor rivers and streets into raging torrents this week and caused the disastrous flooding that swept away cars, destroyed homes and trapped residents.

Read more: Germany floods: Villages evacuated over fears dam will break as landslide causes more deaths

Read more: Flash flooding sparks disruption across London amid torrential downpours

Communication links in some places are still down - meaning it's hard to know how many of the hundreds still missing are victims or are just unreachable.

There were fears the weather could worsen but the water is receding in many affected parts.

German tanks have been brought in to clear stranded vehicles.
German tanks have been brought in to clear stranded vehicles. Picture: PA
A woman walks past a tunnel filled with garbage after floods in Verviers, Belgium.
A woman walks past a tunnel filled with garbage after floods in Verviers, Belgium. Picture: PA
A man helps with the cleanup by carrying rubbish and debris after heavy rain and flooding along the Erft in Bad Münstereifel, Germany
A man helps with the cleanup by carrying rubbish and debris after heavy rain and flooding along the Erft in Bad Münstereifel, Germany. Picture: PA

Chancellor Angela Merke visited Schuld, one of the hardest hit villages in Germany, on Sunday, having returned from a trip to America.

She said she developed "a real picture of, I must say, the surreal, ghostly situation", the Associated Press reported.

"It is shocking — I would almost say that the German language barely has words for the devastation that has been wreaked.

Authorities will aim to "set the world right again in this beautiful region, step by step" and a medium-term financial plan will be approved by her cabinet on Wednesday, she said.

Her finance minister has estimated at least 300 million euros (£257 million) of immediate aid is needed.

An excavator throws an electrical appliance onto the huge mountain of equipment damaged by the flood in Kordel, Germany.
An excavator throws an electrical appliance onto the huge mountain of equipment damaged by the flood in Kordel, Germany. Picture: PA
Angela Merkel is set to visit the village of Schuld which was decimated by the flooding.
Angela Merkel is set to visit the village of Schuld which was decimated by the flooding. Picture: PA

On Saturday, German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with rescue workers and residents of the heard-hit town of Erfstadt.

"A lot of people have lost everything they spent their lives building up - their possessions, their home, the roof over their heads," he told reports.

"It may only be possible to clear up in weeks how much damage needs to be compensated.

"Many people here in these regions have nothing left but their hope, and we must not disappoint this hope."

On Saturday, German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with rescue workers and residents of the heard-hit town of Erfstadt.
On Saturday, German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with rescue workers and residents of the heard-hit town of Erfstadt. Picture: PA
Residents of Bad Muenstereifel, Germany, have been left picking up the pieces of their lives.
Residents of Bad Muenstereifel, Germany, have been left picking up the pieces of their lives. Picture: PA
King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands and Queen Maxima of The Netherlands inspect the damage caused by extreme flooding in Valkenburg.
King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands and Queen Maxima of The Netherlands inspect the damage caused by extreme flooding in Valkenburg. Picture: PA

There has also been mass flooding in the southern part of the Netherlands.

Naomi Nolte from the Netherlands Red Cross said their teams are now "moving further up north to make sure all the people here are at least in physical safety, making sure that they have shelter and food".

"This is really when the rebuilding starts because those homes have been flooded, maybe cars have been damaged,"she added.