More than 30 people have died and dozens are still missing in western Germany following torrential rain and flooding overnight Wednesday.
One of the hardest-hit areas was the wine-growing, hilly Eifel region in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Six houses collapsed in the village of Schuld, and authorities say another 25 buildings in the village are at risk of caving in.
In response to offers of help from the public, Koblenz Police have asked people to stay away from the Eifel’s Ahrweiler region, but to upload any footage of the floods to social media to help them locate the missing. Authorities in Koblenz tweeted Thursday morning that 18 people had died in the region.
Many residents are waiting to be evacuated from their rooftops, but roads to some villages in the region are no longer accessible because of flooding and landslides. Regional authorities have declared a state of emergency, and the army has been deployed.
Climate change now increases the risk of seasonal rains turning catastrophic. In a hotter Europe, scientists expect heavy rainfall to get even more intense and flooding to grow more frequent.
Rhineland-Palatinate’s state government is holding an emergency meeting Thursday to address the dangers of the current situation and the operation required to clear up damage.
In the neighboring state of North Rhine-Westphalia, an 82-year-old man died in his flooded basement in the city of Wuppertal. Two firefighters also died overnight during rescue operations, according to regional authorities.
The flooding has also affected neighboring European countries including Belgium, where Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said the country is facing “unprecedented rainfall.”
North Rhine-Westphalia’s state governor, Armin Laschet, who is running to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel in the September election, is due in Hagen later Thursday. The city has seen its worst floods in 25 years, and authorities there are warning residents who live near the river to leave their properties.
Merkel, who is in Washington, D.C., meeting with President Biden, issued a statement through a government spokesperson on Twitter.
“My condolences go out to the relatives of the dead and missing. I thank the many tireless helpers and emergency services from the bottom of my heart,” Merkel said.
Transport infrastructure has also been badly affected by the rain. Most rail services running through central and western Germany have been suspended, resulting in congestion on the nation’s highways.
Parts of southern and eastern Germany have also been hit by flooding, as have neighboring countries Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
Dutch troops are aiding precautionary evacuation efforts in the southern province of Limburg as rivers are expected to burst their banks. After more than two months’ worth of rain in just 24 hours, authorities are bracing themselves for more rain Thursday, but dryer weather is expected by the weekend.
The intense flooding has also sparked conversation about the impact of climate change with Germany’s Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze tweeting, “The events show the force with which the consequences of climate change can affect us all and how important it is to prepare even better for such extreme weather events in the future.”