(Update 2: upgrades death toll in Germany and Belgium, adds Laschet reaction)
Berlin, Jul 15 (EFE).- At least 40 people have died and dozens are still missing after “catastrophic” flooding hit parts of western Germany, causing buildings to collapse, Germany’s public broadcaster DW said, citing local police.
The heavy rain storms hit the states of North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous in Germany, and Rhineland-Palatinate, particularly hard, according to regional authorities, destroying several buildings, roads and vehicles.
“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.”
Dozens of people were still missing as rescue efforts continued throughout Thursday.
The Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet, a candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as Chancellor, interrupted a campaign tour of southern Germany and traveled to some of the most affected localities, including Altena and Hagen.
“The situation is still dramatic, people are still missing,” Laschet said.
“We will not abandon the affected communities. In this situation, North Rhine-Westphalia will stand together in solidarity.”
Faced with the unprecedented severity of the floods, Laschet said more immediate action was needed to tackle the climate crisis, warning that more of these extreme weather events will happen unless “dynamic” measures are taken.