German floods –103 dead, 1,300 missing

Recent storms across parts of western Europe made rivers and reservoirs burst their banks, triggering flash floods overnight

More than 103 people have died and 1,300 are estimated missing Thursday as severe flooding in Germany and Belgium turned streams and streets into raging torrents that swept away cars and caused houses to collapse.

Among those killed were nine residents of an assisted living facility for people with disabilities and two firefighters involved in rescue efforts across the region.

“I grieve for those who have lost their lives in this disaster,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a visit to Washington, expressing shock at the scope of the flooding.

Speaking alongside U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House, Merkel said her thoughts were with all those who had lost loved ones or were still searching for them.

“I fear the full extent of this tragedy will only be seen in the coming days,” she said.

Authorities said at least 30 people died in North Rhine-Westphalia state and 28 in neighboring Rhineland-Palatinate to the south. Belgian media reported eight deaths in that country.

Recent storms across parts of western Europe made rivers and reservoirs burst their banks, triggering flash floods overnight after the saturated soil couldn’t absorb any more water.

Among the worst-hit German villages was Schuld, where several homes collapsed and dozens of people remained unaccounted for.

Rescue operations were hampered by blocked roads and phone and internet outages across the Eifel, a volcanic region of rolling hills and small valleys. Some villages were reduced to rubble as old brick and timber houses couldn’t withstand the sudden rush of water, often carrying trees and other debris as it gushed through narrow streets.

Karl-Heinz Grimm, who had come to help his parents in Schuld, said he had never seen the small Ahr River surge in such a deadly torrent.

“This night, it was like madness,” he said.

Dozens of people had to be rescued from the roofs of their houses with inflatable boats and helicopters. Hundreds of soldiers were deployed to assist in the rescue efforts