(Update 1: re-ledes, shifts focus to Germany, upgrades death toll, adds detail, quotes throughout)
Berlin, Jul 15 (EFE).- At least 19 people have died and dozens are still missing after “catastrophic” flooding hit parts of western Germany, causing buildings to collapse.
The heavy rain storms hit towns in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous in Germany, and Rhineland-Palatinate, particularly hard, according to regional authorities.
“The floods in Rhineland-Palatinate are of catastrophic magnitude,” the minister-president Malu Dreyer said Thursday. “We are a region that is used to flooding but what we are experiencing is a catastrophe.”
“We are fighting to save people.”
Four deaths were confirmed in the district of Ahrweiler, some 50 kilometers from Bonn in Rhineland-Palatinate, where six buildings have collapsed due to heavy flooding and more than 20 are at risk of collapse.
In neighboring North Rhine-Westphalia, two firefighters died during rescue operations.
The total number of missing people has risen to 70 as rescue efforts continued throughout Thursday.
Germany’s meteorological agency DWD said the rainfall was forecast to recede in the region although isolated showers could persist.
The heavy flooding, which is hip-high in some towns, has prompted some local authorities to cut electricity to avoid short-circuit while rail and road transport has been badly affected.