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Severe storms, rainfall wreak havoc in Germany

July 14, 2021

Heavy rain has caused chaos in some parts of Germany and neighboring Switzerland. A fireman has been killed and at least two people are missing, presumed drowned.

A mudslide in Altena
Parts of Germany experienced flooding after large amounts of rain fell within 12 hoursImage: Markus Klümper/dpa/picture alliance

Prolonged heavy rainfall in Germany continued on Wednesday, causing flooding in which at least one person has died and damage to buildings and other property.

The states of Saxony, Thuringia and North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and the southern state of Bavaria have been hardest hit by the extreme weather.

Extreme weather causes widespread disruption

In Düsseldorf, the capital of NRW, firefighters were called out around 330 times by Wednesday morning to attend to flooding incidents, including in basements and underground garages.

The city called on residents in the district of Grafenberg to leave their homes because of the danger of flooding.

In Hagen, also in NRW, a residence for senior citizens was evacuated after becoming flooded, a spokesman for the city said. Parents in the city were asked not to take their children to day care centers. 

A flood of brown water flows down a street in Hagen at night
In Hagen, in western Germany, over 100 liters of rain per square meter fell overnightImage: Alex Talash/dpa/picture alliance

A number of car drivers had to be rescued from their vehicles after they were surrounded by floodwaters, and some districts were no longer accessible. A police spokesman said people were "desperate."

The premier of NRW, Armin Laschet, who is also the candidate for chancellor of Germany's Christian Democrats (CDU) at the upcoming national elections, intends to visit the city on Thursday to assess the situation.

The rain caused massive disruption to transport in the state, with many train services delayed or canceled. Autobahns were also flooded, causing closures and traffic jams.

A 46-year-old fireman was reported to have died after helping in the rescue of another man from floodwaters in the town of Altena in NRW's Sauerland region.

The fire station in Altena with mud piled nearby
The heavy rain caused a mudslide near the fire station in AltenaImage: Markus Klümper/dpa/picture alliance

The rainfall has also swelled the river Rhine, which flows through NRW, triggering restrictions to shipping in some areas.

The Eifel region in western Germany declared a state of catastrophe on Wednesday evening.

 Flooded street in Gelsdorf in the Eifel region
The Eifel region has declared a state of catastropheImage: Thomas Frey/dpa/picture alliance

Disaster situation 

In the town of Jöhstadt, in Saxony, emergency services were searching for a 53-year-old man who was swept away in a flash flood.

In the Bavarian city of Hof, around 1,000 firefighters and 140 rescue workers were deployed to incidents caused by flooding.

Two firefighters stand next to a river that burst it banks
Fire crews assisted rescue teams searching for a man who was swept away in a flash flood in JöhstadtImage: Andre März/dpa/picture alliance

Regional authorities declared a disaster situation to better coordinate the relief operations. The measure was lifted again on Wednesday morning.

While the extreme weather has eased off, some schools and day care centers remained closed in the area.

a black car stands submerged in brown flood water in a  street
Towns in North Rhine-Westphalia, including here Erkrath, experienced severe floodingImage: David Young/dpa/picture alliance

In the southern state of Baden-Württemberg, an 81-year-old man is reported to have fallen into the flooded Jagst River, which is in flood after heavy rainfall, on Monday night.

"We do not expect that the person can still be rescued alive," authorities said in a statement.

Storms hit Switzerland

Heavy summer storms also caused widespread damage in neighboring Switzerland.

In the southern town of Magadino, an airport hangar partially collapsed amid heavy rain and strong winds overnight.

a collapsed wooden store house in Switzerland
A store house was destroyed in Ruemlang, Switzerland after heavy rain and storms swept through the regionImage: Arnd Wiegmann/REUTERS

Trees were blown onto roads and rail tracks in Zurich, causing travel chaos for commuters, while authorities warned that several rivers in Switzerland could burst their banks. Some Alpine passes were temporarily closed due to heavy snowfall.

How long will the bad weather last?

The German Meteorological Service (DWD) reported that rain and storms are set to continue.

North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland can expect some of the worst weather. Up to 200 liters of rain per square meter could fall until Thursday in some places, the DWD said.

The DWD also issued severe weather warnings for regions in the center, south and east of the country, including for large parts of Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg and Berlin.

kmm/sms (dpa, AFP, AP)