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Europe’s flood death toll rises as focus shifts to rebuilding: NPR

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Europe’s flood death toll rises as focus shifts to rebuilding: NPR

People clean their houses of mud and debris in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany, on Saturday.

Michael Probst / AP


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People clean their houses of mud and debris in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany, on Saturday.

Michael Probst / AP

BERLIN (AP) – Rescuers worked to deal with the damage uncovered by receding water on Saturday as the death toll from disastrous flooding in Western Europe rose to more than 160 and thoughts turned to the lengthy work. to rebuild devastated communities in minutes.

The death toll in the western German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, home to the severely affected Ahrweiler county, rose to 98. Another 43 people were confirmed dead in neighboring North Rhine-Westphalia state. Belgium’s national crisis center said the number of confirmed deaths in the country rose to 27.

Days of heavy rain turned normally smaller rivers and streets into raging torrents this week and caused disastrous flooding that washed away cars, engulfed houses and trapped residents.

In the immediate aftermath of the floods on Wednesday and Thursday, German authorities listed large numbers of people as missing, something apparently caused in large part by confusion, multiple communication and reporting difficulties in the affected areas, some of which lacked electricity and telephone service.

As of Saturday, authorities still feared finding more people dead, but said the missing numbers had steadily declined, without offering specific figures. In Belgium, 103 people were listed as missing on Saturday, but the crisis center said lost or discharged cell phones and people taken to hospitals without identification who had not had the opportunity to contact family members were believed to be factors in the count.

Meanwhile, the receding floods facilitated access to many of the affected regions and revealed the extent of the damage.

“Many people have lost everything they dedicated their life to building: their possessions, their home, the roof over their heads,” said German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier after meeting with rescuers and others in the city of Erftstadt.

A destroyed house is seen in Erftstadt-Blessem, Germany, on Saturday.

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A destroyed house is seen in Erftstadt-Blessem, Germany, on Saturday.

Michael Probst / AP

“It may only be possible to clarify in weeks how much damage needs to be compensated for,” he said.

Steinmeier said that people in the affected areas need continued support.

“Many people here in these regions have nothing left but their hope, and we must not disappoint this hope,” he said.

In Erftstadt, a city southwest of Cologne, a heartbreaking rescue effort unfolded Friday when ground in one neighborhood gave way. At least three houses and part of a mansion in the city’s Blessem district collapsed.

The German army used armored vehicles to clear flood-overwhelmed cars and trucks on a nearby highway, some of which remained at least partially submerged. Officials feared that some people would not escape in Erftstadt, but no casualties were confirmed until Saturday afternoon.

In the Ahrweiler area, police warned of a potential risk of downed power lines and urged curious visitors to stay away. They complained on Twitter that would-be tourists were blocking some roads.

People walk in the floods in Pepinster, Belgium, on Saturday.

Virginia Mayo / AP


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People walk in the floods in Pepinster, Belgium, on Saturday.

Virginia Mayo / AP

Around 700 people were evacuated from part of the German town of Wassenberg, on the border with the Netherlands, after a dam on the Rur river broke.

Visiting Erftstadt with Steinmeier, North Rhine-Westphalia Governor Armin Laschet promised to organize aid for those immediately affected “in the coming days”. He said regional and federal authorities would discuss in the coming days how to help in the reconstruction efforts. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet plans to discuss the issue on Wednesday.

“We will do everything possible so that what needs to be rebuilt can be rebuilt,” Laschet said.

In eastern Belgium, rail and road lines remained blocked in many areas.

A café owner in the devastated town of Pepinster burst into tears when King Philip and Queen Mathilde visited on Friday to offer comfort to residents. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo visited flood-damaged cities on Saturday.

A resident of the Belgian city of Herk-de-Stad said she put off sleeping to try to drain the water from her house.

“We have been pumping all night trying to get the water out of the house,” Elke Lenaerts told VTM on Saturday.

Cars line up on a submerged road in Erftstadt, Germany, on Saturday.

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Cars line up on a submerged road in Erftstadt, Germany, on Saturday.

Michael Probst / AP

Some parts of the southern Netherlands also suffered heavy flooding, although thousands of residents were allowed to return to their homes on Saturday morning after being evacuated on Thursday and Friday.

Acting Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who visited the region on Friday, said “first there was corona, now these floods, and soon people will have to work on cleanup and recovery.”

“It is disaster after disaster after disaster. But we will not leave Limburg,” the southern province affected by the floods, he added. His government has declared the flood in a state of emergency, opening national funds for those affected.

Among other efforts to help flood victims, the Hertog Jan Brewery, which is based in the affected area, delivered 3,000 cases of beer so that locals could lift their belongings off the ground to protect them from the flood.

An emergency levee in the town of Horn failed and some houses were flooded. Authorities issued a warning to stay away from the Maas River due to debris, and rescuers worked to save a cow trapped in muddy waters.

A resident sweeps mud from his home after floods in Belgium on Saturday.

Virginia Mayo / AP


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Virginia Mayo / AP

A resident sweeps mud from his home after floods in Belgium on Saturday.

Virginia Mayo / AP

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