Germany floods: Death toll mounts as Merkel visits hard-hit region | News | DW | 19.07.2021

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Germany floods: Death toll mounts as Merkel visits hard-hit region

Emergency workers have continued rescue and cleanup operations in areas ravaged by the floodwaters. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised swift help to rebuild devastated communities.

Destruction due to flooding in Altenahr, Germany

Rescue workers have been dispatched to find survivors of the flooding

Parts of western Germany continue to reel from the devastation of massive flooding, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel promises government assistance to ravaged communities.

So far, at least 160 people have died in Germany since the floods began on Wednesday, according to police. 

The state of Rhineland-Palatinate alone has recorded 112 fatalities from the flooding. Dozens have also been killed in neighboring North Rhine-Westphalia. 

Hundreds of members of the German military have been deployed to help with rescue efforts. German police contacted 700 missing people on Sunday, but dozens are still unaccounted for.

DW correspondents witness destruction, cleanup efforts

Several DW correspondents reported on the destruction from the flooding and the resulting cleanup efforts.

DW's Giulia Saudelli visited the flood-hit village of Schuld on Sunday, which was also the site of Merkel's visit. The town of just over 700 people is located in the Eifel region, near the Belgian border.

Watch video 03:25

DW reports on flooding in Schuld, Germany

"One can see the devastation and destruction that the water has brought through the town," Saudelli said. 

"Some of the houses that were closer to the river have been completely swept away. Houses further back away from the water are destroyed up to the second floor; some are completely gutted and filled with mud and debris," she added.

Survivors of the flooding are unsure if they will ever be able to return to their homes.  

Flood survivor Vera David waited for over 24 hours for emergency personnel on the top floor of her home, which has now been ruined by the floodwaters.

"There are so many dead. It is unbelievable," David told DW. 

DW reporter Kate Brady reported this weekend on football fans who have traveled to devastated regions to assist in the cleanup efforts.

Merkel promises help to ravaged communities

Merkel promised financial aid to devastated communities during her visit to Schuld on Sunday, and described the flooding as "terrifying." She toured the town alongside Rhineland-Palatinate state Premier Malu Dreyer.

"Germany is a strong country," Merkel said. "We will stand up to this force of nature, in the short term, but also in the medium and long term."

"We have to hurry up, we have to speed up the fight against climate change," the chancellor added.

North Rhine-Westphalia state premier Armin Laschet called for a "swift national response" to the flooding during an interview with public broadcaster Westdeutscher Rundfunk on Sunday. He warned that "rebuilding will take months, if not years."

"We have to build dams, retention basins, reservoirs, to renaturalize land —  protection not just along the Rhine, but also on the large and many small rivers all over the country," he said. 

Bavaria, Austria also impacted by flooding

The southern German state of Bavaria, along with neighboring Austria, were also impacted by the flooding.

Bavarian Premier Markus Söder visited the region of Berchtesgadener Land on Sunday, which had declared an emergency due to the floodwaters. 

"Within a few seconds people lost everything — first in the west and now here. Rapid help is needed in this crisis. Many thanks to all the rescue crews, you've done superhuman work," Söder tweeted. He also called for Germany to implement a more accelerated climate policy.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz expressed praise for rescue workers, as parts of the country, such as the town of Hallein, deal with floodwaters. 

"I would like to thank all the emergency services and volunteers who are doing everything to help! We will not leave those affected alone and support them in rebuilding," Kurz tweeted.

Belgium death toll rises, as rescue operations come to an end

Belgium's confirmed death toll from the flooding rose to 31 on Sunday, but officials have ordered an end to rescue operations. The country's crisis center said cleanup operations are now the focus.

One of Belglum's most famous chocolate factories was forced to halt operations on Sunday due to heavy rainfall.

Seehofer to visit impacted regions

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is expected to visit the hard-hit areas of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia on Monday. 

The interior minister will visit the Steinbachtal Dam in the North Rhine-Westphalian city of Euskirchen, which is at risk of breaching. He will also visit a hospital in the ravaged area of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler in Rhineland-Palatinate.

EU agricultural ministers will meet in Brussels on Monday and discuss how the flooding has impacted farming in western Germany and other affected regions.

wd/sri (AP, AFP, dpa)

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