September 20, 2021

Devastating floods in Europe: more than 160 dead and hundreds missing

Intense searches continued, Saturday, July 17, in Germany and Belgium to find those missing after the deadly floods and landslides which have killed at least 168 people in these two countries since Wednesday.

In Belgium, these historic floods killed at least 27 people, according to a last official report communicated on Saturday evening by the authorities who also deplore 103 people of whom we have no news.

The floods also caused damage in Luxembourg as well as in the Netherlands and Switzerland.

But it is Germany that pays the heaviest price, with at least 141 deaths and hundreds of injured, according to a new report given by the police on Saturday, which said that hundreds of people were still missing, as rescuers from several countries rushed to help.

Inaccessible areas

Many areas remain inaccessible due to the high water level while communications still do not pass in some places.

Residents and business owners struggled to retrieve some items that had not been washed away in the disaster areas. ‘Everything is completely destroyed. You don’t recognize the place, ‘explains the owner of a wine cellar in the town of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, holding back tears.

‘We mourn alongside those who have lost friends, relatives, family members,’ said German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, visiting Erftstadt in the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia -Westphalia where the floods killed at least 43 people.

The German president estimated that it would take several weeks to take stock of the damage, while the reconstruction bill could reach several billion euros.

The climate issue at the center of the electoral campaign

The damage is ‘so important that it will occupy us for a long time’, had also warned the leader of Rhineland-Palatinate, Malu Drayer.

Leader of the conservative CDU party, candidate for the succession of Chancellor Angela Merkel and favorite in the polls for the legislative elections of September 26, Armin Laschet demanded, like the entire political class, ‘to accelerate the pace ‘in the fight against climate change.

This disaster ‘changes the electoral campaign’, putting the climate issue back at the center of the debates, says the newspaper Der Spiegel.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, returning from a visit to the United States, is scheduled to visit the flood scene on Sunday.

Some 120 municipalities affected in Belgium

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited Rochefort in the south of Belgium on Saturday morning and Pepinster, in the east, of the municipalities hit by the disaster.

‘I am sad and shocked to see the destruction (…) We Europeans are with you at this difficult time with all our hearts. Your mourning is our mourning, ‘said Ursula von der Leyen, pledging EU aid.

‘Since Thursday, whether in material goods, food, or a helping hand on the spot, hundreds of citizens have offered their support to those affected,’ said the crisis center, on its website, calling on volunteers to contact the Red Cross which has opened an account to collect donations.

The weather has improved across the country with the end of precipitation on Friday, the appearance of the sun and the arrival of summer temperatures on Saturday. As a result, the level of the streams receded, revealing a desolate landscape.

Belgium declared a day of national mourning on Tuesday, the eve of its national holiday.