A week after severe floods hit eastern Europe devastating Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, German officials said Thursday they fear the 158 people still missing there may not be found.
The death toll from the floods has risen to at least 205 across the continent, while a total of at least 176 people remain accounted for. Belgium accounts for 32 deaths and 18 missing, according to its national crisis center.
In Germany, the hardest-hit country, entire towns were inundated by water, while train lines and roads were swept away by the flash floods, claiming at least 173 lives.
Germany’s federal disaster relief organization said it was very unlikely that any more survivors would be found. Rescue services have continued to comb through towns ravaged by the floods in search for potential survivors.
The vice president of Germany’s federal agency for technical relief, Sabine Lackner, said that she did not expect emergency workers to find anymore survivors.
“The search for missing people continues to move forward, but due to the damage scenario and the time that has now passed, there is little hope that missing people will be found at this time,” Lackner said in a statement.
In the city of Koblenz, in the badly hit western German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, police said at least 125 people were now confirmed to have died. Also at least 47 people have died in Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
”There are still 155 people unaccounted for,” police spokeswoman Verena Scheurer said on Thursday, adding that “therefore, we presume at this stage that the number of deaths could still rise.”
German chancellor Angela Merkel called the devastation surreal,” adding: “I can almost say that the German language doesn’t have words for the devastation.”