19 dead and dozens missing as flooding hits Germany

(AP) - At least 19 people have died and dozens of people are missing in Germany after heavy flooding turned streams and streets into raging torrents, sweeping away cars and causing buildings to collapse.

Authorities in the western county of Euskirchen said eight deaths had been reported there. Rescue operations were hampered as phone and internet connections were down in part of the region, south west of Cologne.

Police in the western city of Koblenz said four people had died in Ahrweiler county, and about 50 were trapped on the roofs of their houses awaiting rescue.

Houses are submerged on the overflowed river banks in Erdorf, Germany, as the village was flooded Thursday, July 15, 2021. Continuous rainfall has flooded numerous villages and cellars in Rhineland-Palatinate, southwestern Germany. (Harald Tittel/dpa via AP)
Houses are submerged on the overflowed river banks in Erdorf, Germany, as the village was flooded Thursday, July 15, 2021. Continuous rainfall has flooded numerous villages and cellars in Rhineland-Palatinate, southwestern Germany. (Harald Tittel/dpa via AP)

Six houses collapsed overnight in the village of Schuld, in a volcanic region of rolling hills and small valleys south west of Cologne, and many people were reported missing.

The extent of the damage is still unclear after many villages were cut off by floodwater and landslides that made roads impassable. Videos posted on social media showed cars floating down streets and houses partly collapsed.

Authorities declared an emergency in the region after days of heavy rain that also affected large parts of western and central Germany, as well as neighbouring countries.

Police said four people died in separate incidents after basements were flooded in Cologne, Kamen and Wuppertal, where authorities warned that a dam could burst.

Authorities in Rhine-Sieg county, south of Cologne, ordered the evacuation of several villages below the Steinbachtal reservoir amid fears the dam there could also break.

A man walks by damaged cars in a flooded street in Mery, Province of Liege, Belgium, Wednesday, July 14, 2021. A code red was issued in parts of Belgium on Wednesday as severe rains hit the area. (AP Photo/Valentin Bianchi)
A man walks by damaged cars in a flooded street in Mery, Province of Liege, Belgium, Wednesday, July 14, 2021. A code red was issued in parts of Belgium on Wednesday as severe rains hit the area. (AP Photo/Valentin Bianchi)

A fireman drowned on Wednesday during rescue work in the western town of Altena and another collapsed during rescue operations at a power plant in Werdohl-Elverlingsen.

One man was missing in the eastern town of Joehstadt after disappearing while trying to secure his property from rising waters, authorities said.

Rail connections were suspended in large parts of North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state.

German weather service DWD predicted the rainfall would ease Thursday.

Relentless rain through the night worsened conditions in eastern Belgium, where one person was reported drowned and at least one other was missing.

Some towns saw water levels rise to unprecedented levels and had their centres turned into gushing rivers.

Major highways were inundated and in the south and east, and the railway authority said all services were stopped, adding that “alternative transport is highly unlikely”.

A photo, taken with a drone, shows the devastation caused by the flooding of the Ahr River in the Eifel village of Schuld, western Germany, Thursday, July 15, 2021. At least eight people have died and dozens of people are missing in Germany after heavy flooding turned streams and streets into raging torrents, sweeping away cars and causing some buildings to collapse. (Christoph Reichwein/dpa via AP)
A photo, taken with a drone, shows the devastation caused by the flooding of the Ahr River in the Eifel village of Schuld, western Germany, Thursday, July 15, 2021. At least eight people have died and dozens of people are missing in Germany after heavy flooding turned streams and streets into raging torrents, sweeping away cars and causing some buildings to collapse. (Christoph Reichwein/dpa via AP)

In eastern Eupen, on the German border, one man was reported dead after he was swept away by a torrent, a local governor told RTBf network.

In Liege, the Meuse river could break its banks by early afternoon and spill into the heart of the city. Police warned residents to take precautionary measures.

Authorities in the southern Dutch town of Valkenburg, close to the German and Belgian borders, evacuated a care home and a hospice overnight amid flooding that turned the tourist town’s main street into a river, media reported.

The government sent 70 troops to the southern province of Limburg late on Wednesday to help with transporting evacuees and filling sandbags as rivers burst their banks. There were no reports of injuries linked to flooding in the Netherlands.

Unusually intense rain has also inundated a stretch of north-east France this week, downing trees and forcing the closure of dozens of roads. A train route to Luxembourg was disrupted, and firefighters evacuated dozens of people from homes near the Luxembourg and German border and in the Marne region, according to local broadcaster France Bleu.

The equivalent of two months of rain has fallen on some areas in the last one or two days, according to the French national weather service. With the ground already saturated, the service forecast more downpours on Thursday and issued flood warnings for 10 regions.