Rescue workers searched flood-ravaged towns in Germany and Belgium for survivors as the death toll from a week of burst rivers and flash floods rose to 157.
Hundreds of people are still missing in Germany, where the water is receding after days of heavy rain to reveal devastation: streets strewn with debris and overturned, often crumpled cars and trucks; destroyed buildings and mud everywhere.
Around 700 residents were evacuated late on Friday after a dam broke in the town of Wassenberg near the Dutch border, Reuters reported. The town’s mayor said it was too soon Saturday to allow residents to return, but water levels were “stabilizing.”
Another dam in Western Germany, the Steinbachtal dam, remained at risk, and roughly 4,500 people were evacuated from homes downstream.
“We mourn with those that have lost friends, acquaintances, family members,” German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said during a visit to Erftstadt, southwest of Cologne, where homes collapsed as the ground beneath them slipped away in a landslide. The disaster killed at least 43 people there and more are missing. “Their fate is ripping our hearts apart,” Steinmeier said.
Roads around Erftstadt were impassable, and rescue crews evacuating survivors by boat had to relay on walkie-talkies to communicate because the cell phone network was out, The Guardian reported. “The mobile network has collapsed. The infrastructure has collapsed. Hospitals can’t take anyone in. Nursing homes had to be evacuated,” a regional government spokesperson in Cologne said.
The toll across Germany reached 133 Saturday, the country’s worst natural disaster in decades.
At least one power plant in Germany was damaged by the floods and 114,000 households were without power.
Clean water was also an issue in Belgium, where flood waters in some areas are expected to keep rising Saturday.
The death toll rose to 24, according to the national crisis center. About 20 people are still missing.
“There are a number of dikes on the Meuse [River] where it is really touch and go whether they will collapse,” Belgian interior minister Annelies Verlinden said.
Emergency services in the Netherlands also remained on high alert as overflowing rivers threatened towns and villages throughout the southern province of Limburg.
In Switzerland, heavy rain has caused several rivers and lakes to burst their banks, with authorities in the city of Lucerne closing several pedestrian bridges over the Reuss river, The Associated Press reported. Several towns in Luxembourg have also been evacuated.
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