The death toll from the devastating floods triggered by torrential rainfall in western and southern Germany has increased to more than 100, with thousands others missing, according to police and local authorities.
The federal states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate were hit particularly hard, with 43 people and 60 people dead, respectively.
“It is a national disaster,” said Malu Dreyer, minister president of Rhineland-Palatinate at a press conference on Friday, adding that “people can count on all forces in the country to stand together”.
A large number of people are still missing and homeless while communications remain cut off in major areas.
The district of Ahrweiler alone currently estimates about 1,300 missing people, while around 3,500 are being treated in care facilities
“Due to the complex damage situation, a final assessment of the situation is not yet possible,” the district announced via Twitter.
North Rhine-Westphalia’s minister president Armin Laschet said that ways would need to be found to get roads, bridges and other infrastructure up and running again.
“A great national effort is required so that the worst things are quickly removed.”
More storms and heavy rainfall are expected to hit Rhineland-Palatinate and the federal state of Saarland.
The German Weather Service (DWD) warned of local thunderstorms with precipitation between 15 and 25 litres per square metre as well as hail and gale-force winds.
Floods in Western Europe have been sweeping through Germany, Belgium, and a few other neighbouring countries over the week.
In Belgium, which has declared a day of mourning on Tuesday, officials said there were at least 20 dead and another 20 missing, with more than 21,000 people left without electricity in one region.
Thousands of residents in the north of Limburg province in neighbouring Netherlands were ordered to leave their homes early Friday as floodwaters peaked. Emergency services were on high alert, and authorities were also reinforcing dikes along vulnerable stretches where floodwaters continue to rise.
Waters were receding in the southern city of Maastricht, where there was no flooding and in the town of Valkenburg, where damage was widespread, but no one was hurt. In the town of Maaseik, on the Dutch border, the Meuse had risen beyond a retaining wall and was spilling past sandbags placed on top.
Floods at the Elbe river in 2002, which at the time were billed by media as “once-in-a-century floods”, killed 21 people in eastern Germany and more than 100 across the wider central European region.