At least 19 people have lost their lives in Germany and Belgium in floodings following days of heavy rains.
Precipitation across western Europe has led to many rivers overflowing their beds in Belgium, France Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.
Authorities in the Euskirchen district, in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, revealed on Thursday morning that eight people are known to have died.
It said that the situation in several locations “is very critical” with rescues underway. Communication, including internet and telephone connections, is restricted with the 112 emergency number “not reachable”.
Police in Koblenz, in the western German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, said on Thursday that four people died in Ahrweiler county and that “many people are reported missing.”
“Many of the missing people were on the roofs of houses that were washed away in the town of Schuld,” a spokesman for the Koblenz police said.
About 50 people were awaiting rescue on roofs on Thursday, Koblenz police said.
These fatalities come after five deaths were reported on Wednesday, including an 82-year-old man who died in Wuppertal after falling in his flooded basement and a fireman who drowned in Altena during rescue work.
Across the border, the governor of the Liege Province, Catherine Delcourt, said on Thursday morning that at least two people have lost their lives and that several others are missing.
Residents in Chaudfontaine, on the banks of the river Vesdre, began to be evacuated on Wednesday afternoon. The operation was expected to involve up to 1,700 people, RTBF reported.
In addition, hundreds of scouts who were camping in Wallonia have had to be evacuated and rehoused since Tuesday night.
“We are evacuating the scout camps one after the other,” Corine Mullens, the mayor of Rochefort (south), a tourist town where several rivers meet, told RTL-TVI.
A total of 120 camps are affected and either have to be evacuated or postpone their trips because of the weather, Gilles Beckers, spokesman for the Scouts of Belgium, told the 24-hour news channel LN24.
The French government announced said that 40 rescuers from its Civil Security Training and Intervention Unit, as well as a helicopter with two water rescue specialists on board, were on their way to Belgium to help. They are being deployed as part of the European Union’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid.
Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter on Thursday morning that the bloc “is ready to help” and that countries impacted by the floods can call on the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
“My thoughts are with the families of the victims of the devastating floods in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands and with those who have lost their homes.”
France is also being battered by heavy rainfalls with 11 north-eastern départements still under amber warning on Thursday morning due to the risk of floodings.
MeteoFrance said that up to 90 mm of rain could fall over these areas on Thursday, which represents three weeks to a month of rain. It stressed that up to 70mm of rain have already fallen in large swathes of the northeast since Tuesday and that “the soils are already saturated with water and mudflows possible in sloping areas.”
Authorities in the southern Dutch town of Valkenburg, close to the German and Belgian borders, evacuated a care home and a hospice overnight amid flooding that turned the tourist town’s main street into a river, Dutch media reported.
The Dutch government sent some 70 troops to the southern province of Limburg late Wednesday to help with tasks including transporting evacuees and filling sandbags as rivers burst their banks. There were no reports of injuries linked to flooding in the Netherlands.
In Switzerland, the heavy rainfalls have saturated the soil and caused landslides and mudslides.
Authorities in Geneva recommend not to walk along rivers and not to go down the Rhône due to high flow conditions. The level of Lake Geneva is also of concern to the authorities.
The risk of flooding was high on the shores of Lake Zurich and the Limmat River and authorities have also urged people not to go to forests for safety reasons after violent storms and gusts of winds exceeding 100 km/h feel trees.
Lake Lucerne, in central Switzerland, also poses a very high risk of flooding, warned MeteoSchweiz, while the lakes of Thun, Biel, the Upper Rhine and the Reuss River are at high risk.
Several mountain passes and tunnels have been closed, and rail traffic has been disrupted in several parts of the country, according to the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB).
At least 19 dead in heavy rains, floods in Germany and Belgium