CATASTROPHE: the Blessem district of Erftstadt, western Germany, completely destroyed (Image: GETTY)
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Record rainfall in western Europe has caused major rivers to burst their banks in west Germany resulting in the worst flooding in decades. Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and the Netherlands have also been affected by the freak weather. A total of 20 deaths have been officially confirmed in Belgium, with that figure expected to rise.
“There wasn’t anything left that could be broken – it was so terrible, we couldn’t help anyone.
“People were waving out of their windows,” said Frank Thel, a resident of one of the worst affected areas.
An estimated 114,000 homes are now without power in the region and the village of Schuld is reported to be almost entirely destroyed as water levels continue to rise.
Several more people died in a landslide when the ground collapsed into a nearby gravel pit in the town of Blessem, near Cologne.
Emergency responders continue to frantically search for missing people (Image: GETTY)
Thousands have been forced to leave their homes due to the floods (Image: GETTY)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “My empathy and my heart goes out to all of those who in this catastrophe lost their loved ones, or who are still worrying about the fate of people still missing.”
“I fear we will only see the full extent of this tragedy in the coming days,” she added from Washington where she is visiting President Joe Biden.
Mrs Merkel promised that she was in communication with the finance minister to arrange long-term aid to those affected but stressed the current aim was rescue and immediate response.
Cologne, Germany where the river Rhine has burst its banks (Image: GETTY)
Mrs Merkel will stand down as Chancellor in October after almost 26 years in the role.
Her potential successor, Armin Laschet, the premier of the affected area, has blamed the climate crisis for the tragedy.
European Commission President Ursula von der Layen agreed that the floods were caused by climate change.
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00:13 Worst rainfall in a century
The German weather service (DWD) has said the rainfall experienced in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland is the heaviest experienced in over a century.
A spokesperson for the German weather service said: “In some areas we have not seen as much rainfall in 100 years.”
They added some regions have “seen more than double the amount of rainfall”.
Cologne, in North Rhine-Westphalia, recorded 154 millimeters in only 24 hours on Wednesday.
The average monthly rainfall for July is normally only 87 millimetres.
23:23 165,000 without power
At least 165,000 people are currently without power in hard hit regions. These are Rhineland-Palatinate and neighboring North Rhine-Westphalia.
At least 43 people have died i n North Rhine-Westphalia.
Katja Heins , the state’s Interior Ministry spokeswoman, told CNN: ”The situation remains very dynamic — we do not know how many people are unaccounted for.”
22:22 “No end in sight”
Ulrich Sopart, a police spokesman in the city of Koblenz, told CNN there was “There is no end in sight just yet”.Mr Sopart is hopeful the number of missing people will be revised in the coming days as phone lines are restored.Some people may have been registered missing two or three different times by family members, friends and colleagues.
21:31 Kate and Prince William speak out
Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William delivered a heartbreaking statement on Twitter.
Referencing the floods across Europe, they wrote: “The damage and loss caused by the flooding disaster in Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands is devastating.
“We are thinking of all those affected by these floods.”
20:01 102,000 people without electricity in western Germany
Approximately 102,000 people in western Germany are currently without electricity, according to the German energy supplier Westenergie.
The floods have destroyed much of Germany’s essential infrastructure including mobile phone networks as well as electricity.
Westenergie are working at full speed to restore power to the affected areas, according to German news network WDR aktuell.
19:38 Death toll update: 125 lives lost in freak flooding
At least 125 people have lost their lives in the freak flooding in western Europe, with that figure expected to rise.
Emergency workers continue to search for the hundreds of people still missing in the worst flooding in decades.
18:49 Belgium announce day of mourning
Belgium has announced July 20 will be a national day of mourning for the victims of the severe weather in recent days.
Prime Minister of Belgium Alexander De Croo said: “Our country is going through very difficult moments.
“Our thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones – the whole country sympathises with them.”
Currently, 20 deaths have been officially confirmed in Belgium, with that figure expected to rise.
At least 20 more people are missing.
The Prime Minister stressed that the situation remains critical.
18:12 Thousands flee as flood waters breach Dutch defences
Thousands of people have fled their homes in the southern Netherlands as rising waters broke through a dyke and swept through cities. Much of the Netherlands is below sea level, protected by a complex system of ancient dykes and modern cement barriers that hold back water from the sea and rivers.
“There is a large hole in the dyke … Immediately leave your home and get to safety,” emergency services in Meerssen said in an online alert.
Families were told to turn off their electricity and gas supplies. Hundreds of firefighters and soldiers have been deployed to help reinforce other dykes and evacuate residents.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte has now declared a national disaster in the southern province of Limburg.
17:03 Parts of Germany received two months of rain in 24 hours
Parts of Germany recieved two months of rain in the space of 24 hours, according to BBC Weather.
Most of the 150mm of rain fell within a 12 hour window.
For context, BBC Weather says the South West German city of Mannheim usually receives around only 70mm of precipitation in July.
14:32 More than 700 soldiers deployed to support rescue efforts
More than 700 soldiers have been deployed to assist rescue efforts.
Authorities are extremely concerned that further dams could overflow which would devastate the communities below.
They continue to ease pressure by gradually releasing water from them.
An estimated 4,500 people were evacuated downstream from the Steinbachtal dam in western Germany which had been at risk of a breaking overnight.
14:21 ‘Hospitals can’t take anyone in. Nursing homes had to be evacuated,’ said Cologne official
Fear is rising in Cologne as vital infrastructure has been destroyed.
“The network has completely collapsed.
“Hospitals can’t take anyone in, nursing homes had to be evacuated,” said a spokesperson for the Cologne regional government.
Roads around the town are currently impassable after being destroyed by the floods.
The infrastructure breakdown comes as thousands are still missing.
Rescue crews continue to attempt rescues by boat and are communicating via walkie-talkie after mobile networks collapsed in the worst affected areas.
13:58 German president ‘stunned’ and urges ‘determined’ action on climate change
German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier has said he is “stunned” by the devastation caused by freak flooding in Germany.
The president has pledged his support to those affected and has insisted on “determined” action on climate change.
“The water is receding. The full extent of the disaster is only now becoming clear,” the president said.
“Perhaps, in a few days’ time, the terrible pictures of the flooding will not dominate the news – but that is exactly when people in the flooded areas will most need our continued support.
“We must not disappoint them,” he added.
13:42 12 dead in assisted living facility
12 people have died in an assisted living facility for the disabled in the Rhineland-Palatinate state of Germany.
As water swept into the building, staff were unable to get all of the residents to safety.
Only one of the 13 missing people was found alive.