At least 44 dead and dozens missing as devastating floods hit Germany and Belgium

15 July 2021, 06:46 | Updated: 15 July 2021, 16:34

By Asher McShane

At least 44 people have died and as many as 70 more are missing after torrential rain triggered flash flooding with homes and cars swept away in Germany and parts of Belgium underwater.

Two men died in Belgium due to the torrential rain and a 15-year-old girl was missing after being swept away by a river, according to Reuters.

Police in the western German city of Koblenz said 18 people had died in Ahrweiler county, and about 50 were trapped on the roofs of their houses awaiting rescue.

Six houses collapsed overnight in the village of Schuld. "Many people have been reported missing to us," police said.

Schuld is located in the Eifel, a volcanic region of rolling hills and small valleys south west of Cologne.

Devastating floods hit parts of Germany
Devastating floods hit parts of Germany. Picture: Thomas Frey/dpa/Alamy Live News

The extent of the damage in the region is still unclear after many villages were cut off by floodwater and landslides that made roads impassable. Videos posted on social media showed cars floating down streets and houses partly collapsed in some places.

As many as 20 people have died in the flooding
As many as 20 people have died in the flooding. Picture: Thomas Frey/dpa/Alamy Live News

Authorities have declared an emergency in the region after days of heavy rain that also affected large parts of western and central Germany, as well as neighbouring countries, causing widespread damage.

A man among debris in the village of Insul
A man among debris in the village of Insul. Picture: Boris Roessler/dpa/Alamy Live News

Police said an 82-year-old man died after a fall in his flooded basement in the western city of Wuppertal, which was among the hardest-hit.

A woman examines damage in Insul
A woman examines damage in Insul. Picture: Boris Roessler/dpa/Alamy Live News

A fireman drowned on Wednesday during rescue work in the western German town of Altena and another collapsed during rescue operations at a power plant in Werdohl-Elverlingsen.

One man is missing in the eastern town of Joehstadt after disappearing while trying to secure his property from rising waters, authorities said.

Rail connections were suspended in large parts of North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany's most populous state. Governor Armin Laschet visited the flood-hit city of Hagen, blaming global warming for the destruction caused.

"We will be faced with such events over and over, and that means we need to speed up climate protection measures, on European, federal and global levels, because climate change isn’t confined to one state," he said.

German weather service DWD predicted the rainfall will ease on Thursday.

Relentless rain through the night worsened conditions in eastern Belgium, where one person was reported drowned and at least one other was missing.

Some towns saw water levels rise to unprecedented levels and saw their centres turned into gushing rivers.

Major roads were inundated and in the south and east of the nation, the railway service said all traffic was stopped, adding that "alternative transport is highly unlikely".

In eastern Eupen, on the German border, one man was reported dead after he was swept away by a torrent, a local governor told RTBf network.

In Liege, the Meuse river could break its banks by early afternoon and spill into the heart of the city. Police warned residents to take precautionary measures.

Cars have been submerged in the heavy flooding in Liege, Belgium.
Cars have been submerged in the heavy flooding in Liege, Belgium. Picture: PA

Authorities in the southern Dutch town of Valkenburg, close to the German and Belgian borders, evacuated a care home and hospice overnight amid flooding that turned the tourist town's main street into a river, media reported.

The Dutch government sent 70 troops to the southern province of Limburg late on Wednesday to help with tasks including transporting evacuees and filling sandbags as rivers burst their banks. There were no reports of injuries linked to flooding in the Netherlands.

Unusually intense rain has also inundated a stretch of north-east France this week, downing trees and forcing the closure of dozens of roads.

A train route to Luxembourg was disrupted, and firefighters evacuated dozens of people from homes near the Luxembourg and German border and in the Marne region, according to local broadcaster France Bleu.

The equivalent of two months of rain has fallen on some areas in the last one or two days, according to the French national weather service. With the ground already saturated, the service forecast more downpours on Thursday and issued flood warnings for 10 regions.