© Reuters. On July 17, 2021, after a heavy rain in Erftstadt-Blessem, Germany, members of the Bundeswehr surrounded by partially submerged cars trudged through the flood. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen
Authors: Petra Wischgoll and David Sahl
Germany ERFTSTADT/Germany WASSENBERG (Reuters)-Rescuers searched for survivors in flood-ravaged areas in Germany and Belgium on Saturday after an outbreak of rivers and flash floods this week caused houses to collapse and claimed the lives of at least 157 people .
German President Frank-Waltersteinmeier said during a visit to Elfstadt in North Rhine-Westphalia: “We mourn with those who have lost friends, acquaintances, and family members. This disaster At least 43 people were killed.”
“Their fate is tearing our hearts.”
The floods in western Germany have killed about 133 people, which is the country’s worst natural disaster in more than half a century. According to the police, they included about 90 people in the Ahrweiler district south of Cologne. Hundreds of people are still missing.
Authorities said that about 700 residents were evacuated on Friday night after a dam broke in the town of Wasenberg near Cologne.
“The water level has been stable since last night, and it can be said that the situation is stable,” said Wassenberg Mayor Marcel Maurer. “It’s too early to make a conclusion, but we are cautiously optimistic.”
However, after about 4,500 people were evacuated from downstream houses, the authorities stated that the Steinbachtal Dam in western Germany was still at risk of rupture.
Steinmeier called the flood a tragedy and said that it will take several weeks to assess the complete damage and it is estimated that billions of euros in reconstruction funds will be needed.
The governor of North Rhine-Westphalia and the candidate of the ruling CDU party in the September general election, Armin Laschet, said that he will meet with Finance Minister Olaf Schu in the coming days. Olaf Scholz discusses financial support.
According to the National Crisis Center, which is responsible for coordinating rescue work, the death toll has risen to 24 in Belgium.
The center said in a statement: “Unfortunately, we have to assume that this number will continue to rise in the next few hours and days.” About 20 people are still missing.
Community cut off
In the past few days, floods have mainly hit the German states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia, as well as eastern Belgium, and have cut off electricity and communications for the entire community.
RWE, Germany’s largest electricity producer, said on Saturday that its open-pit mine and Weisweiler coal-fired power plant in Inden have been severely affected, adding that after the situation has stabilized, the plant’s capacity is being reduced.
The utility company expects losses to be in the double-digit million euro range.
In the provinces of Luxembourg and Namur in southern Belgium, the authorities are eager to supply drinking water to households that do not have clean supplies.
The water levels in the worst-hit areas of Belgium are slowly falling, but the crisis center said that the situation along the Deme River near Brussels might worsen in the afternoon, and about 10 houses are threatened with destruction.
Infrabel, the Belgian railway network operator, has announced a line maintenance plan, some of which will not be put back into use until the end of August.
On Saturday afternoon, Prime Minister Alexander De Crowe and European Commission President Ursula von der Lein visited some of the country’s worst-hit areas.
The Netherlands is on high alert
As the flooding of the river threatens the towns and villages of the southern province of Limburg, the emergency services in the Netherlands are also on high alert.
In the past two days, tens of thousands of residents in the area have been evacuated, while soldiers, fire brigades and volunteers have been working frantically all Friday night to strengthen the dam and prevent flooding.
So far, the Dutch have escaped a disaster on the scale of a neighboring country, and as of Saturday morning, there have been no reports of casualties.
Scientists have long said that climate change will lead to greater downpours. But scientists said on Friday that it will take at least a few weeks to study to determine its role in these relentless downpours.