BERLIN – At least seven people have died and several people are missing in Germany after heavy flooding turned streams and streets into raging torrents, sweeping away cars and causing buildings to collapse.
Police in the western city of Koblenz said on Thursday four people had died in Ahrweiler county and around 50 were trapped on the roofs of their homes awaiting rescue.
Six houses had collapsed overnight in the village of Schuld. “Many people have been missing from us,” police said.
Schuld is located in the Eifel, a volcanic region of hills and small valleys southwest of Cologne.
The extent of the damage in the area was still unclear after many villages were cut off by floodwaters and landslides that made roads impassable. Videos posted on social media showed cars floating through the streets and partially collapsed houses in some places.
Authorities have declared an emergency in the region after days of heavy rains that also affected large parts of western and central Germany, as well as neighboring countries, causing extensive damage.
Police said an 82-year-old man died from a fall in his flooded basement in the western town of Wuppertal, which was among the hardest hit.
A firefighter drowned during rescue work in the city of Altena in western Germany on Wednesday and another collapsed during rescue operations at a power station in Werdohl-Elverlingsen. A man went missing in the eastern town of Joehstadt after he went missing while trying to protect his property from rising waters, authorities said.
Rail links have been suspended across much of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state. Governor Armin Laschet, who is running to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor in Germany’s elections this fall, was due to visit the flood-affected town of Hagen later Thursday.
The German weather service DWD predicted that precipitation would decrease on Thursday.
Relentless rains all night worsened flood conditions in eastern Belgium, where one person was reported drowned and at least one missing.
Some cities have seen water levels rise to unprecedented levels and their centers have been transformed into gushing rivers.
Major highways were flooded and in the south and east of the country, the rail service said all traffic had been halted, adding that “alternative transport is highly unlikely.”
In eastern Eupen, on the German border, a man has been reported dead after being washed away by a torrent, a local governor told RTBf.
In Liège, the main city in eastern Belgium, the Meuse could break its banks in the early afternoon and flow into the heart of the city. Police have warned citizens to take precautionary measures.
Authorities in the town of Valkenburg in the south of the Netherlands, near the German and Belgian borders, evacuated a care home and hospice overnight amid flooding that transformed the main street of the tourist town in the river, Dutch media reported.
The Dutch government sent some 70 troops to the southern province of Limburg on Wednesday evening to help with tasks such as transporting evacuees and filling sandbags as rivers overflowed their banks. There have been no reports of flood-related injuries in the Netherlands.
Unusually heavy rains also flooded parts of northeastern France this week, chopping down trees and forcing the closure of dozens of roads. A train line 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 the local television channel France Bleu.
The equivalent of two months of rain has fallen in some areas in the past one or two days, according to the French national weather service. With the ground already saturated, the service forecast more showers on Thursday and issued flood warnings for 10 regions.