Berlin, Jul 15 (EFE).- At least 58 people are dead and dozens more remains missing after “catastrophic” flooding hit parts of western Germany, causing buildings to collapse, public broadcaster DW said Thursday.
The storms hit North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, and neighboring Rhineland-Palatinate particularly hard, destroying buildings, roads and vehicles.
“The floods in Rhineland-Palatinate are of catastrophic magnitude,” state Minister-President Malu Dreyer said. “We are a region that is used to flooding, but what we are experiencing is a catastrophe.”
“We are fighting to save people,” she said.
Her counterpart in North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet, a candidate to succeed fellow Christian Democrat Angela Merkel as chancellor, interrupted a campaign tour of southern Germany and traveled to some of the most affected localities.
“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.
Speaking from Washington ahead of a meeting at the White House with US President Joe Biden, Merkel pledged to use “all the power of the state” to aid the affected regions.
“Heavy rainfall and floods are very inadequate words to describe this – it is therefore really a catastrophe,” she said, adding that officials have already begun to discuss long-term reconstruction efforts.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said he will do everything in his power to ensure that the affected regions receive the required aid from the federal government.
“People in the areas affected (…) are in a precarious situation. The federal government must help,” said Scholz, who is also the Social Democratic Party (SPD) candidate to succeed Merkel as chancellor.
The most severe flooding in the region in 30 years has prompted some local authorities to cut electricity to avoid short-circuits, while rail and road transport has been badly affected.
A rescue unit of 3,900 responders has been active in close to 2,000 operations across the affected areas since the storm began on Tuesday, although the floodwaters and the trail of destruction left in their wake are hampering rescue efforts.
At least six people died in flooding in neighboring Belgium, where the rains have caused major disruption on roads and railways lines around the city of Liege.
“The only attitude to have for the moment is to help the people and save the people, as in some areas the situation could worsen,” Prime Minister Alexandre de Croo said in a statement.
“We have never before seen what we have seen today,” he said, “but climatologists have said that extreme weather phenomena will multiply.” EFE