More than 120 people have died in the last few hours in the Europe, most of them in Germany, amidst the intense storm that caused floods and landslides. The casualty balance may increase as rescue services continue to search for dozens of missing people.
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So far have been confirmed 103 dead in western Germany, according to the latest official figures.
On Belgium, are at least 18 deaths and 19 missing, in addition to hundreds of people isolated in their homes, and 21,000 without electricity. The army sent soldiers to four of the country’s ten provinces to participate in the rescue efforts.
Luxembourg e Holland were also affected, and some areas had to be urgently evacuated.
“I fear that we will only see the magnitude of the catastrophe in the next few days,” said the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, on Thursday night (15), from Washington, where he is visiting.
“The floods of death”, said this Friday’s headline in the Bild newspaper, the most read in the country.
The heavy rains surprised the residents. Many were trapped by floods and overflowing rivers, which sowed desolation and fear in their path.
“At 23:30 there was only a little water. At one in the morning, everything was submerged. Our apartment, our office, the neighbors’ houses (…) Everything was flooded in just 15 minutes,” said Agron Berischa, who lives in city of Ahrweiler in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate.
In this state, the number of deaths jumped from 28 to 60, this Friday. This balance could increase, amid the search for dozens of missing people.
Near Cologne, a landslide that occurred today, also as a result of the floods, caused “several deaths”, and people are missing, according to a spokeswoman for the local government.
like a tsunami
In the specially hit Ahrweiler area, 1,300 people are without news, but a large part of that number includes inhabitants who cannot be located due to communication problems.
“We estimate that there may be 40, 50, or 60 missing people. When there are people who don’t show signs of life for a long time, you fear the worst,” Interior Minister Roger Lewentz told SWR television.
“Therefore, the number of victims is at risk of increasing in the coming days,” he added.
About 1,000 soldiers were deployed in Germany to assist with rescue, evacuation and cleanup operations in cities. The images are heartbreaking.
The streets of Ahrwiler appear to have been swept away by a tsunami. Streets and houses are submerged, buildings have collapsed, cars have been swept away, and trees have been uprooted. Several neighborhoods in the city remained, literally, isolated from the world this Friday.
For the time being, it is still raining in several parts of the west, and the volume of the River Rhine and several of its tributaries is dangerously increasing.
According to the general director of the German association of municipalities, Gerd Landsberg, “it is a catastrophe of unknown magnitude”.
“Considering the damages, there are billions of euros in losses,” he said.
“Where does all this rain come from? It’s crazy,” Annemarie Mueller, from the city of Mayen, also in Rhineland-Palatinate, told AFP, who looks out from her balcony at the flooded garden.
Climate agenda enters the campaign
The storms have placed the issue of climate change at the heart of the German election campaign. Legislative elections take place on September 26, after which Merkel will step down.
“These extreme weather whims are a consequence of climate change,” said Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.
When the atmosphere heats up, it retains more water, which can cause heavy rains. Storms can have particularly devastating consequences in urban areas, due to poor drainage systems, or buildings located in areas that are at risk of being flooded.
This Friday, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for a firm commitment to the fight against climate change. According to him, this is the only alternative to curb extreme meteorological phenomena, such as the intense rains that punish the country.
“Only if we resolutely commit to the fight against climate change can we control extreme weather conditions such as we are currently experiencing,” Steinmeier said in a statement, adding that he was “deeply devastated” by the “tragedy”.
“This situation means that we have to accelerate climate protection measures at the national, European and global levels,” said Armin Laschet, candidate of Merkel’s Conservative Party and favorite to replace her, according to polls.
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