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WORLD NEWS

Flood

The death toll from flooding in Western Europe has crossed 180, as rescuers dig in


Story by The Associated Press

Story   Source

Published on September 15, 2021 5:09 AM
 
 
BERLIN — The death toll from flooding in Western Europe climbed above 180 on Sunday after rescue workers dug deeper into debris left by receding waters. Heavy rain fueled new floods in southeastern Germany and Austria, though not on the scale of last week's devastating onslaught.

Police put the toll from the hard-hit Ahrweiler area of western Germany's Rhineland-Palatinate state at more than 110 and said they feared the number may still rise. In neighboring North Rhine-Westphalia state, Germany's most populous, 46 people were confirmed dead, including four firefighters. And Belgium has confirmed 27 casualties.

Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived Sunday in Schuld, a village located on a curve of the Ahr river that was devastated by the flooding, to see the damage for herself. Her visit comes after Germany's president went to the area on Saturday and made clear that it will need long-term support.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said he will propose a package of immediate aid at a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, telling the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that more than 300 million euros ($354 million) will be needed. And he said that officials must start setting up a rebuilding program which, from experience with previous flooding, will be in the billions of euros.

"I express my closeness to the populations of Germany, Belgium and Holland, hit by catastrophic flooding," he said in his first public appearance to the faithful in St. Peter's Square after major surgery. "May the Lord welcome the deceased and comfort the family members."

Officials in the Ahrweiler area asked people not to make any more donations in kind for now. Police said...

BACKGROUND

2021 European floods

Since 12 July 2021, several European countries have been affected by floods, some were catastrophic, causing deaths and widespread damage. The floods started in the United Kingdom as flash floods causing some property damage and inconvenience. Later floods affected several river basins across Europe including Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. At least 242 people have died in the floods, including 196 in Germany, 42 in Belgium, 2 in Romania, 1 in Italy and 1 in Austria. July and August in 2021 saw many floods occurring at similar times, with flooding also occurring in Turkey, China, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States, and New Zealand.

Belgian Minister of Home Affairs Annelies Verlinden described the events as 'one of the greatest natural disasters our country has ever known.' German minister-president Malu Dreyer of the Rhineland-Palatinate state called the floods 'devastating'. In addition to the confirmed fatalities, the flooding led to widespread power outages, forced evacuations and damage to infrastructure and agriculture in the affected areas. The damage to infrastructure was especially severe in Belgium and Germany. The floods are estimated to have cost up to €2.55 billion in insured losses, with the total damage costs being much higher. In the aftermath, scientists, activists and reporters all highlighted the connection to global trends in extreme weather, especially more frequent heavy rainfall caused by climate

Germany

With at least 184 deaths, the floods are the deadliest natural disaster in Germany since the North Sea flood of 1962. 1,300 people had been initially reported as missing on July 16, but mostly due to mobile networks being down in some regions which made it difficult to call people. It was considered unlikely that the number of deaths would rise that high, and while on 19 July the exact number of missing persons remained unclear, search was ongoing for at least 150 people. Some 15,000 police, soldiers and emergency service workers have been deployed in Germany to help with the search and rescue. During the floods, 135 people died in Rhineland-Palatinate , 47 in North Rhine-Westphalia , and two in Bavaria. Four firefighters are among the dead. Westnetz, Germany's biggest power distribution grid, stated on 15 July that 200,000 properties in the North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate regions were without power, and that it would be impossible to repair substations until roads were cleared. On 16 July, around 102,000 people were still without power. The German Weather Service reported that the quantity of rain in some areas of Germany was the highest in over 100 years, possibly higher than any seen in the last 1,000 years. They reported that some areas had received a month's average rainfall in one day.

Some of the worst damage from the flood was in the district of Ahrweiler, Rhineland-Palatinate, where the river Ahr rose, destroying many buildings and causing at least 110 deaths. The topography of Ahr valley in western Germany, with some sections resembling gorges, may have exacerbated the effects of the heavy rainfall. The flooding here was the worst since 1910 when up to 200 people were killed in flash flooding. On 14 July, the city of Hagen declared a state of emergency, after the Volme river started overflowing its banks. The village of Kordel in Trier-Saarburg, which has around 2,000 residents, has been completely cut off. Several rivers reached their highest water level to date, including the Kyll, which rose from an average level of 1 metre to 7.85 metres .

On 15 July, Thalys train services to Germany were suspended, and Deutsche Bahn stated that many rail services in North Rhine-Westphalia were also cancelled. Deutsche Bahn reported that over 600 kilometres of track was affected in North Rhine-Westphalia. The Cologne–Wuppertal–Hagen–Dortmund and Cologne–Bonn –Koblenz lines were closed. The Cologne–Bonn Beuel–Koblenz line remained open, but trains were subject to delay and cancellation. Customers were asked to avoid travel within and to North Rhine-Westphalia by train. The train connection from Dresden to Prague was also suspended after mudslides buried the tracks. Along the Ahr Valley Railway, at least seven railway bridges have been destroyed.

In Blessem, floodwaters of the Erft river inundated a quarry on 16 July, leading to a major landslide with several people possibly dead. Several buildings collapsed including parts of Burg Blessem . Around 40 meters of the nearby Bundesautobahn 1 broke away and fell into the Erft, but no cars were on the highway since it was closed. Experts voiced concerns on 15 July that the Steinbachtal Dam was unstable and could burst, and 4,500 people were preemptively evacuated from parts of Euskirchen, and later several thousand more from parts of Rheinbach and Swisttal. Drones were deployed to inspect the dam; while no cracks were found, local politicians said the situation as of 16 July remained 'critical'. Several other dams in North Rhine-Westphalia, such as the Rur Dam, were also overflowing, but there were no concerns about their structural integrity. Regardless, on 16 July a dam of the Rur burst near Wassenberg, prompting the evacuation of Ophoven . Around 360 inmates had to be evacuated from a prison near Euskirchen due to a failing supply of water and electricity. In Eschweiler, all of the more than 300 patients of the St.-Antonius-Hospital Eschweiler had to be evacuated. On 14 July, in Hagen, a veteran soldier rescued a 13-year-old girl who required mechanical ventilation as well as two elderly people using a MAN KAT1 which was usually exhibited in a local museum, after regular rescue vehicles were unable to get there in time.

Strong rainfall also led to flooding in the states of Baden-Württemberg and Saxony. As of 15 July, one person in Saxony remains missing.

Further strong rainfall on 17 July caused flooding in Saxony and Bavaria e.g. Berchtesgadener Ache, where at least one person died. The flooding damaged the Königssee bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton track where it washed away part of the track that will take until October 2022 to rebuild.

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