The toll of devastating weather in Germany worsened further on Saturday, July 17, reaching at least 133 deaths in the country, bringing the number of victims in Europe to 153. This assessment is still very provisional, because dozens of people are still missing in Germany and Belgium, where 20 dead have been counted.

In the region of Rhineland-Palatinate (western Germany), one of the most affected, “90 people lost their lives during the disaster”, Koblenz police said. This toll comes on top of the 43 deaths in North Rhine-Westphalia, another German region hit by the disaster. “It is to be feared that we will not discover more deaths”, warned the German local authorities.

Near Cologne, in Erftstadt, a portion of a village literally collapsed on itself following a landslide on Friday. The spectacular images of the disaster area showed a vast yawning crater into which masses of earth, brown water and debris were pouring out. The authorities warned that several people had lost their lives there.

Landslide in Erfstadt, near Cologne, Germany.

Germany faced, between July 14 and July 15, torrential rains of unprecedented violence, which caused sudden floods invading inhabited areas and destroying many localities.

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Relief operations and repairs

Nearly a thousand soldiers were mobilized to help with relief and clearing operations. Because now repairs must begin: gas pipes or telephone lines are unusable in many places, hundreds of people are homeless. “It is a unique disaster of unprecedented magnitude”, asserts Gerd Landsberg, Director General of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities. “Judging by the damage, billions of euros are at stake.”

In the municipality of Schuld, in Rhineland-Palatinate (western Germany), Friday July 16, 2021.

These bad weather have placed the issue of climate change at the center of the electoral campaign, which is in full swing in Germany in view of the legislative elections on September 26, at the end of which Angela Merkel will step down. All the candidates compete in promises, two and a half months before the elections. The President of the Federal Republic, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in a solemn declaration urged to fight “Resolutely” against climate change. “These floods confirm what science says about [ce phénomène], stressed, for her part, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

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Neighboring Belgium is also paying a heavy price, with at least twenty deaths, according to the government’s latest report. Twenty people are still missing and 21,000 inhabitants are deprived of electricity. The army was deployed in four of the ten provinces of the country to take part in the relief efforts, and in particular in the numerous evacuations. “It could be that these floods are the most catastrophic that our country has ever known”, said Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, decreeing Tuesday a day of national mourning.

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The torrential rains also caused extensive damage in the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The situation could also worsen in Switzerland, with the risk of flooding several lakes and rivers.

The World with AFP

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