Death toll from European flooding tops 150 as water recedes

(AP) - The death toll from disastrous flooding in western Europe has risen above 150 as rescue workers toiled to clear up the devastation and prevent further damage.

Police said more than 90 people are known to have died in western Germany’s Ahrweiler county, in hard-hit Rhineland-Palatinate state.

Another 43 people were confirmed dead in neighbouring North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state.

Belgian broadcaster RTBF reported that the death toll in Belgium rose to 27 on Saturday.

Waters are receding across many of the affected regions, but officials fear that more bodies might be found in cars and trucks that were swept away.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier plans to travel to Erftstadt, south west of Cologne, where a harrowing rescue effort unfolded on Friday after people were trapped when the ground gave way and their homes collapsed.

Death toll from European flooding tops 150 as water recedes
Death toll from European flooding tops 150 as water recedes

Officials feared that some people did not manage to escape, but by Saturday morning no casualties had been confirmed.

Many areas are still without electricity and telephone service which, combined with multiple counting in some cases, appears to have accounted for large numbers of missing people that authorities gave immediately after the floods hit on Wednesday and Thursday.

Around 700 people were evacuated from part of the German town of Wassenberg, on the Dutch border, after the breach of a dyke on the Rur river.

Southern parts of the Netherlands have also been hit by heavy flooding, and volunteers worked through the night to shore up dykes and protect roads.

Two bridges at the river Ahr are blocked by rubble in Altenahr, western Germany, Saturday, July 17, 2021. Heavy rains caused mudslides and flooding in the western part of Germany. Multiple have died and are missing as severe flooding in Germany and Belgium turned streams and streets into raging, debris-filled torrents that swept away cars and toppled houses. (Lino Mirgeler/dpa via AP)
Two bridges at the river Ahr are blocked by rubble in Altenahr, western Germany, Saturday, July 17, 2021. Heavy rains caused mudslides and flooding in the western part of Germany. Multiple have died and are missing as severe flooding in Germany and Belgium turned streams and streets into raging, debris-filled torrents that swept away cars and toppled houses. (Lino Mirgeler/dpa via AP)

Thousands of residents of the southern towns of Bunde, Voulwames, Brommelen and Geulle were allowed to return home on Saturday morning after being evacuated on Thursday and Friday.

Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who visited the region on Friday, said the region faced “three disasters”.

“First, there was corona, now these floods, and soon people will have to work on clean-up and recovery,” he said.

“It is disaster after disaster after disaster. But we will not abandon Limburg,” the southern province hit by the floods.

His government has declared the flooding a state of emergency, opening up national funds for those affected.

In Switzerland, heavy rain caused several rivers and lakes to burst their banks, with authorities in the city of Lucerne closing several pedestrian bridges over the Reuss river.