German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday that after the death toll in parts of Europe rose to 188 and an area in Bavaria was hit by extreme weather, the flood that had already devastated parts of Europe was “scary”.
Merkel promised to provide rapid financial assistance after visiting one of the areas most affected by record rainfall and flooding. These areas have caused at least 157 deaths in Germany alone in recent days, which is nearly sixty in the country. The worst natural disaster in the past year.
She also said that just a few days after Europe outlined a package of steps to achieve “net zero” emissions by the middle of this century, governments must respond better and faster to the effects of climate change.
“This is terrible,” she told the residents of the small town of Adenau in the Rhineland-Palatinate state. “German can hardly describe the destruction that occurred.”
As efforts to trace the missing people continue, a flash flood occurred in an area of Bavaria in southern Germany on Sunday, killing at least one person, and the disaster continues.
The road turned into a river, some vehicles were washed away, and large tracts of land were buried in thick mud in Berchtesgaden. Hundreds of rescue workers are looking for survivors in the area bordering Austria.
“We were not prepared for this,” said Bernhard Kern, the chief executive of Berchtesgaden, adding that the situation deteriorated “rapidly” late on Saturday and there was little time for the emergency. The service department takes action.
In the worst-hit Ahrweiler district in southern Cologne, about 110 people were killed. The police said that as the floods recede, more bodies are expected to be found there.
The European floods that began on Wednesday mainly hit parts of Germany’s Rhineland Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia, and parts of Belgium. The entire community was cut off, without electricity or communications.
In North Rhine-Westphalia, at least 46 people have died. On Sunday, the death toll in Belgium climbed to 31.
Power on, power off
The scale of the floods means they may affect the German general election in September next year.
The governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Raschelt, the CDU’s candidate to succeed Merkel, apologized for laughing in the background, and the German President Frank-Walter Stein Inmeier was interviewed by the media after visiting the disaster-stricken Elfstadt.
Finance Minister Olaf Schultz told the weekly newspaper Bild am Sonntag that the German government will immediately prepare more than 300 million euros (354 million US dollars) and billions of euros for repairing collapsed houses, streets and bridges.
“The loss is huge. It is clear: Those who have lost their business and their houses cannot bear the loss alone.”
The Minister of Economy, Peter Altmaier, told the newspaper that a short-term payment of 10,000 euros may also be provided to businesses affected by the flooding and the COVID-19 pandemic.
For a long time, scientists have stated that climate change will lead to greater downpours, but it will still take several weeks to determine its role in these relentless rains.
The Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Crowe said that the link with climate change is obvious.
In Belgium, where a national day of mourning will be held on Tuesday, 163 people are still missing or unreachable. The crisis center stated that the water level is falling and a large-scale cleanup operation is underway. The army was sent to the eastern town of Pepinster, where more than a dozen buildings collapsed in search of more victims.
About 37,000 homes have been out of power, and the Belgian authorities stated that the supply of clean drinking water is also a major problem.
The bridge was hit hard
Dutch emergency services officials said the situation in southern Limburg has stabilized. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated in recent days, but the north is still on high alert.
“In the north, they are nervously monitoring the dams and whether they will be held,” Jos Teeuwen of the Regional Water Authority said at a news conference on Sunday.
In the southern part of Limburg, the authorities still worry about the safety of roads and bridges and other transportation infrastructures, which have been hit by high water levels.
So far, the Netherlands has only reported property damage caused by floods, and no deaths or missing persons have been reported.
In Hallein, an Austrian town near Salzburg, on Saturday night, as the Kottbach River burst its banks, powerful floods washed the city center, but no casualties were reported.
Many areas in the province of Salzburg and neighboring provinces are still on alert and will continue to rain on Sunday. West Tyrol reports that water levels in some areas are at high levels not seen in more than 30 years.
Parts of Switzerland are still in flood warning status, although the threat posed by some of the most dangerous water bodies, such as Lake Lucerne and the Aare River in Bern, has eased.