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The death toll from the floods in Germany and Belgium has risen to 160, and emergency numbers are counted



The death toll from torrential rains in Germany and Belgium has risen to 160, with fears that the death toll is likely to rise as rescuers continue to search for hundreds of missing people.

 

Germany alone recorded 133 dead, and there are fears that the region will witness further devastation in light of the presence of dams built on one of the rivers extending from Belgium to the Netherlands, as well as fears of the collapse of the Paul Dam, "the state of North Rhine-Westphalia."

 

Thousands are now homeless after flood waters washed away their homes, and electricity was cut off and homes collapsed in the town of "Schold" and the south of the state of Bonn in western Germany.

 

While members of the army and firefighters intensified efforts to search for victims of the devastation caused by the worst floods that swept Western Europe in decades, killing more than 150 people and leaving dozens missing.

 

Western Germany was worst affected by floods that also hit Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, leaving streets and homes submerged in muddy water, isolating entire communities.

 

With the death toll in Germany reaching 133, three days after the disaster, rescuers said more bodies were likely to be found in floating basements and collapsed homes as cleanup began in earnest.

 

The flooding of a dam in the district of Heinsberg, 65 km southwest of Dusseldorf, at night, led to the emergency evacuation of hundreds of residents.

 

In Germany's worst-affected regions of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, residents who had fled floods were gradually returning to their homes amid scenes of devastation.

 

"Within minutes, a wave swept into the house," said baker Cornelia Schleuser, describing the torrential rain that fell Wednesday night on the town of Sjöld, sweeping with it the family's century-old shop.

 

"It was a 48-hour nightmare, we're spinning around but we can't do anything," she added, looking at the piles of twisted metal, broken glass and lumber that had piled up at the front of her destroyed store.

 

 

In some of the affected areas, firefighters, local officials and soldiers, some in tanks, have begun the massive task of clearing the piles of rubble blocking the streets.

 

The mayor of Solingen, the city in the south of the Ruhr region, Tim Kurtsbach, acknowledged that "the task is huge".

 

The true scale of the disaster is now clear as damaged buildings are being surveyed, some of which will have to be demolished, while efforts are being made to restore gas, electricity and telephone services.

 

The disruption of communications networks has complicated efforts to find out the number of missing, while most roads in the water-logged Ahar Valley are out of service.

 

"We have to expect to find more victims," ​​said Caroline Weitzl, mayor of Irwistadt in Rhenania, north-Westphalia, which was hit by a terrible landslide caused by the floods.

 

Rhineland-Palatinate Interior Minister Roger Levents told local media that up to 60 people were missing and more than 600 were injured.

 

The government said it was working to establish a special aid fund, with the cost of the damage expected to reach several billion euros.

 

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who returned Friday from a catastrophic visit to Washington, vowed to provide "short-term and long-term government support" to the stricken municipalities.

 

The chancellor has not yet traveled from Berlin to the affected areas, but her spokesman said Friday that she had made contact with regional leaders about a "soon visit to the disaster site".

 

With at least 133 people dead, devastating floods have brought climate change back to the center of Germany's election campaign on the eve of the September 26 vote, with Merkel leaving power after 16 years at the helm.

 

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Germany "must be better prepared" for the future, adding that "this harsh weather is the result of climate change".

 

For his part, Armin Laschet of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, the most likely to succeed her after the elections, spoke of an "unprecedented disaster" in the state of Rhineland, north of Westphalia, from which he hails, and in the Rhineland-Palatinate.

 

Greens candidate Annalina Berbock cut short her summer vacation to go to the stricken area while the finance minister promised SPD candidate for chancellor Olaf Schultz "non-bureaucratic aid".

 

Der Spiegel news magazine reported that the relationship between global warming and extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall that caused floods will shed light on the candidates' response to the issue of climate change.

 

"There will be assurances in the coming days that this issue is not a problem for the campaign, but of course it is," she said, referring to the expected increasing frequency of natural disasters due to the climate emergency. "People want to know how politicians will lead them in a situation like this," she added.

 

In neighboring Belgium, the death toll rose to 24, while 21,00 people were without electricity in one region.

 

Belgian Prime Minister Alexandre de Croo went Saturday to inspect the area, which suffered "unprecedented" losses as a result of the floods. He is expected to be joined by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as he inspects river valleys in eastern Belgium near the border with Germany.

 

Heavy rains also fell on Luxembourg and the Netherlands, inundating many areas and forcing the authorities to evacuate thousands of people in the Dutch city of Maastricht.

 

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has pledged an initial aid package of 50 million euros ($59 million) to be given immediately to people who have suffered losses in the floods.


For his part, the Dutch Prime Minister said that this bad weather is "without a doubt" the consequences of climate change, while the value of national donations to the stricken province of Limburg exceeded one million euros on Saturday.

 

In response to a question on Friday evening during a visit to Limburg about the impact of global warming, Mark Rutte said that "this is undoubtedly the case."

 

"I don't want to make any hasty statements, but something is already happening, so let's be clear," he added.

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