Angela Merkel calls for action on climate change as she investigates deadly flood damage

Angela Merkel calls for action on climate change as she investigates deadly flood damage

HEIMERSHEIM, Germany – The station has been reduced to rubble, wrecked cars lie on the tracks and uprooted trees line the riverbank.

Hundreds of people in the village of Heimersheim were still without power as police scoured the wreckage left by the receding water on Sunday to search for bodies and potentially flammable materials.

There have been similar scenes in western Germany and other parts of Europe where cleaning up from last week’s catastrophic flooding continued. At least 180 people have died, officials confirmed on Sunday, with thousands more missing.

As the waters rose from the Ahr River, Zinat Hamsoro, 41, who lives in normally quiet Heimersheim, told NBC News she was forced to climb up and spend the night on a hill near the village.

“It happened so quickly and we weren’t notified,” she said on Sunday. “The city council posted a warning message on its Facebook page, but by then it was too late. “

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In the nearby village of Schuld, Germany, German Chancellor Angela Merkel documented the damage on Sunday, meeting survivors, many of whom had lost their homes, before heading to the town of Adenau where she held a press conference .

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for more action on climate change as she assesses the damage. Christof Stache / Pool via AFP – Getty Images

“The German language knows few words to describe the devastation that has been caused here,” she said.

She said the force of the storms suggested they had “something to do with climate change”, adding: “We need to hurry, we need to step up the fight against climate change.”

Promising financial aid, Merkel, who will step down as German Chancellor later this year, added she had been “incredibly reassuring”.

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said he would offer an immediate aid package at a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, telling the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that more than € 300m ($ 345m) would be needed.

Merkel’s speech came as German officials confirmed that more than 150 people had died in the floods. At least 27 people have also lost their lives in neighboring Belgium.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Rhineland-Palatinate State Prime Minister Malu Dreyer speak with assistants during their Sunday visit to the flood-ravaged village of Schuld.Christof Stache / Pool via AFP – Getty Images

Elsewhere, during his first public appearance in front of the faithful in St. Peter’s Square after major surgery, Pope Francis offered a prayer for the victims and in support of “everyone’s efforts to help those who have suffered great damage” .

“I express my closeness to the populations of Germany, Belgium and Holland, hit by catastrophic floods,” he said.

Experts also said ignoring warnings about the intense weather was likely responsible for the scale of the crisis.

Scientists have long said that climate change will lead to heavier downpours. While it is difficult to determine the exact role it could play in a single event, this relentless precipitation indicates the crises people will continue to face around the world.

Claudio Lavanga reported from Heimersheim and Isobel van Hagen from London.

Adam reiss contributed.