© Reuters. Debris covers a residential area after heavy rains in Dernau, Germany, on July 17, 2021. REUTERS / Wolfgang Rattay
By Ralph Brock and Romana Fuessel
BERCHTESGADEN / BISCHOFSWIESEN, Germany (Reuters) – Flash floods hit southern Germany on Sunday, killing at least one person, turning roads into rivers and compounding the devastation that has claimed the lives of more than 180 people across Europe. in the last days.
Some vehicles were swept away and tracts of land were buried under thick mud as the Berchtesgadener Land district of Bavaria became the last region to hit by record rains and floods.
Hundreds of rescuers were searching for survivors in the district, which borders Austria.
“We were not prepared for this,” Berchtesgadener Land district administrator Bernhard Kern said, adding that the situation had “drastically” deteriorated by Saturday night, leaving little time for emergency services to act.
Sunday’s death brought the death toll in Germany to 157 in its worst natural disaster in nearly six decades, and the European figure to 184.
Some 110 people have died in the worst affected Ahrweiler district south of Cologne. More bodies are expected to be found there as floodwaters recede, police say.
The European floods, which began on Wednesday, have mainly affected the German states of Rhineland Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia and parts of Belgium. Entire communities have been isolated, without electricity or communications.
In North Rhine-Westphalia, at least 46 people have died, while the death toll in Belgium stood at 27.
The German government will prepare more than 300 million euros (354 million dollars) in immediate aid and billions of euros to repair collapsed houses, streets and bridges, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told the weekly Bild am Sonntag.
“There is enormous damage and that is clear: those who lost their businesses, their houses, cannot contain the losses by themselves.”
There could also be a short-term payment of 10,000 euros for companies affected by the impact of the floods and the COVID-19 pandemic, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told the newspaper.
Scientists, who have long said that climate change will lead to heavier rains, said it would still take several weeks to determine their role in these relentless rains.
In Belgium, which will celebrate a national day of mourning on Tuesday, water levels dropped on Sunday and the clean-up operation was underway. The army was sent to the eastern town of Pepinster, where a dozen buildings collapsed, to search for more victims.
Tens of thousands of people are without electricity and Belgian authorities said the supply of clean water was also a major concern.
Emergency services officials in the Netherlands said the situation had stabilized somewhat in the southern part of Limburg province, where tens of thousands were evacuated in recent days, although the northern part was still on high alert. .
“In the north they are tightly monitoring the levees and whether they will hold,” Jos Teeuwen of the regional water authority told a news conference on Sunday.
In southern Limburg, authorities remain concerned about the safety of traffic infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, hit by high tide.
So far, the Netherlands has only reported property damage from the floods and there are no people dead or missing.
In Hallein, an Austrian city near Salzburg, powerful floods ripped through the city center on Saturday night when the Kothbach River overflowed, but no injuries were reported.
Many areas of the Salzburg province and neighboring provinces remain on alert, and the rains will continue on Sunday. The province of West Tyrol reported that water levels in some areas were at maximum levels not seen in more than 30 years.
Parts of Switzerland remained on flood alert, though the threat posed by some of the most at-risk bodies of water, such as Lake Lucerne and Bern’s Aare River, has eased.
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