At least 20 people have died and 70 more are missing after torrential rain triggered flash flooding which swept away homes and cars in Germany while devastating parts of Belgium and the Netherlands.
Eight people died in the Euskirchen region south of the city of Bonn, in Germany, while four more died in the Ahrweiler region and the hard-hit town of Schuld, where six homes collapsed leaving dozens missing.
Two firefighters are among the dead, including one who drowned trying to rescue people in the town of Altena on Wednesday, as inflatable boats and helicopters were deployed along with 200 soldiers to help rescue efforts.
Malu Dreyer, premier of Rhineland-Palatinate state, said he planned to visit the scene of the flooding today.
‘It’s a catastrophe! There are dead, missing and many people still in danger. All of our emergency services are in action round the clock and risking their own lives,’ said Dreyer.
Meanwhile in Belgium, two men were confirmed death after being swept away in the flooding while a 15-year-old girl was also reported missing. Ten houses also collapsed in Pepinster after the river Vesdre flooded, with residents evacuated from more than 1,000 homes.
Residents of South Limburg, in the Netherlands, also had to be evacuated after flooding there overnight, though no casualties were reported. Flooding also hit Switzerland as rivers burst their banks, with the towns of Ottenbach and Stansstad affected.
GERMANY: The village of Schuld (pictured) was partially destroyed by flooding overnight that swept away six homes killing at least four people – though dozens more have been reported missing
GERMANY: Schuld was badly damaged after the Ahr river which flows around it burst its banks, sending torrents of water through the streets which then swept away houses and cars
BELGIUM: A woman wades through a flooded street in Liege after heavy rains hit the area and caused widespread flooding
BELGIUM: People evacuate their flooded homes in the city of Liege, Belgium, after torrential rains left their street underwater
NETHERLANDS: The fire brigade evacuate people from their homes in South Limburg, the Netherlands, after towns were flooded amid torrential rain
NETHERLANDS: Homes, a care home and a hospice all had to be evacuated in South Limburg province, the Netherlands, overnight Wednesday and Thursday morning after intense flooding
SWITZERLAND: People rush to remove their belongings from a flooded campsite in Ottenbach after the nearby Reuss river burst its banks amid heavy downpours
SWITZERLAND: The village square of Stansstad, near the city of Lucerne, is seen underwater with residents forced to walk across raised platforms after heavy rain hit Europe
A car is seen covered in rubble in the German town of Hagen, south of Dortmund, after it was hit by flooding overnight
A woman cleans a shop entrance after flooding in the town of Bad Muenstereifel, south of the city of Bonn and located along the banks of the Erft river
A damaged road after flooding in the town of Bad Muenstereifel after the Erft river broke its banks
The Erft river is seen flowing underneath a damaged bridge in the town of Bad Muenstereifel, Germany
Meanwhile French meteorologists put out flood warnings for the east of the country on Thursday.
In Belgium, the Vesdre river broke its banks and sent masses of water churning through the streets of Pepinster, close to Liege, its destructive power bringing down some buildings.
‘Several homes have collapsed,’ mayor Philippe Godin told RTBF network. It was unclear whether all inhabitants had been able to escape unhurt.
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.
Another man was reported missing in eastern Belgium, where some towns saw water levels rise to unprecedented levels and had their centers turned into gushing rivers.
Major highways were inundated and in the south and east of the nation, the railway service said all traffic was stopped.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged to help those affected.
‘My thoughts are with the families of the victims of the devastating floods in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands and those who have lost their homes,’ she tweeted. ‘The EU is ready to help.’
The full extent of the damage across the region was 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 in some places.
Many of the dead were only discovered after floodwaters began to recede again. Police said four people died in separate incidents after their basements were flooded in Cologne, Kamen and Wuppertal, where authorities warned that a dam threatened to burst.
Authorities in the 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 damaged road and a car after flooding in Bad Muenstereifel, Germany
A destroyed building is seen at a flood-affected area following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany
Debris brought by the flood new seen on the street following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany
Partially submerged vehicles are pictured on a flood-affected area, following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany
Cars destroyed by flood are pictured on a flood-affected area, following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany
Collapsed houses are seen on a flood-affected area following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany
Firefighters work at a flood-affected area following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany
A damaged bridge after flooding in Hagen, Germany
A woman looks at debris brought by the flood next to the Ahr river, following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany
A woman wades through floodwaters in the town of Hagen after torrential rain inundated rural areas in western Germany
People look a at a destroyed car and other damages caused by the floods of the Volme river in Priorei, near Hagen
A fireman drowned Wednesday during rescue work in the western German 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. Governor Armin Laschet, who is running to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor in this fall’s German election, was expected to visit the flood-hit city of Hagen later Thursday.
German weather service DWD predicted the rainfall would ease Thursday, though there might still be localized storms.
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, Dutch media reported.
The Dutch government sent some 70 troops to the southern province of Limburg late Wednesday to help with tasks including transporting evacuees and filling sandbags as rivers burst their banks.
A section of one of the Netherlands’ busiest highways was closed due to rising floodwaters threatening to inundate the road and Dutch media showed a group of holidaymakers being rescued from a hotel window with the help of an earth mover.
Unusually intense rains have also inundated a swath of northeast 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 Thursday and issued flood warnings for 10 regions.
Meanwhile, high temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher were expected Thursday in parts of northern Europe.
The night between Wednesday and Thursday was the hottest in history, the Finnish weather service company Foreca said Thursday with the mercury reaching 24.2 Celsius degrees (75.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
Greta Thunberg, the climate activist, tweeted that the extreme weather of recent days should not be regarded as ‘the new normal.’
‘We’re at the very beginning of a climate and ecological emergency, and extreme weather events will only become more and more frequent,’ she said on Twitter.
Emergency workers wade through a flooded road after heavy rains in Ensival, Belgium
A woman looks from a building at a flooded road after heavy rains in Ensival, Belgium
A man looks at damaged cars in a flooded street in Mery, in the Belgian province of Liege, after heavy flooding overnight
Mud and water fill the ground floor of a house flooded by rainwater in Mery, Province of Liege, Belgium
A man walks by damaged cars in a flooded street in Mery, Province of Liege, Belgium
A car sits balanced on a stone wall in a flooded street in Mery, Province of Liege, Belgium
Streets were turned into rivers that ripped up roads with the city of Hagen, south of Dortmund, particularly hard-hit (pictured)
A villager from Balken, just north of Cologne, looks at floodwaters in the Wupper river after torrential downpours overnight caused it to burst its banks
Cars drive in a flooded area near the De Dem water buffer in Hoensbroek, Limburg, the Netherlands
Residents put down sandbags to block water near the De Dem water buffer in Hoensbroek, Limburg, the Netherlands
A wheel loader of Germany’s technical relief agency THW pulls a stranded van out of floodwaters in Hagen, Germany
A man and woman stand on the stoop of their home as they look at the flood waters following heavy rains in Holland
Evacuated residents of a care home sit inside a bus as they are taken to a reception location, in the municipality of Valkenburg aan de Geul, South Limburg region, the Netherlands
An aerial view taken with a drone of the Allaine river which burst its banks following heavy rainfall in the last few days, Courtemaiche, canton of Jura, Switzerland
The first water overflows at the Reuss River in Lucerne, Switzerland, on Thursday