Cleanup efforts underway following deadly, disastrous flooding in Europe
More than 19,000 first responders have mobilized in the region of North Rhine-Westphalia to take on cleanup operations after severe flooding that swept away homes and killed more than a hundred.
Days of heavy rainfall across central and western Europe caused rivers to burst their banks, leading to deadly and catastrophic flooding that has left thousands of residents homeless, at least 180 dead and hundreds more missing.
As floodwaters start to recede in the coming days, the death toll may continue to rise.
The flooding hit Belgium and Germany particularly hard, and thousands of residents are now without homes, according to The Associated Press.
''In some areas we have not seen as much rainfall in 100 years," a spokesperson from Deutscher Wetterdienst, the German weather service, said in a statement, CNN reported.
Rescue crews across the region were frantically working to rescue stranded residents from homes submerged in floodwaters as the building threatens to collapse, the AP reported.
The North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate regions of Germany were among the areas hit hardest by the torrential rainfall with most of the deaths occurring in these areas, according to The Guardian.
Counted among the fatalities were 12 residents of an assisted living facility for people with disabilities.
"We have never seen such a catastrophe, it is truly devastating," Rhineland-Palatinate premier Malu Dreyer told state lawmakers, according to AFP.
Late in the day on Friday, around 700 residents were evacuated after a dam broke in Wassenberg, a town near Cologne, Reuters reported. On Saturday morning, Mayor Marcel Maurer announced that water levels were beginning to stabilize, adding, "It's too early to give the all-clear but we are cautiously optimistic."
However, the Steinbachtal dam was still at risk of breaching as of Saturday morning, prompting authorities to evacuate nearly 4,500 people from homes downstream. Experts are planning to reassess the structural integrity of the dam.
Federal Minister of Defense Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer stressed that disaster relief is now the top priority of the military. Approximately 900 soldiers have been deployed in these efforts. The military units used inflatable boats and helicopters to reach people stranded on roofs, but downed phone and internet connections hindered the rescues, according to the AP.
Tanks were also used to clear mud, trees and debris from roadways.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated she was distraught by the news and offered her sympathy to the families of those killed and missing due to the floods, the AP reported.
President Joe Biden offered his condolences to Germany in his opening comment during Thursday's discussion with Merkel in Washington, D.C.
On Wednesday, firefighters in Hagen were called to rescue stranded motorists after streets were turned into rivers, the AP reported. Photos and videos on social media showed the torrents and water levels reaching to the hoods of cars.
Roadways were also flooded in Düsseldorf, including in the A44 tunnel that runs just south of the airport. The city reported 1.89 inches (48 mm) of rain in about 12 hours Tuesday night into Wednesday.
Flooding was not limited to western Germany this week with reports of flooding along eastern Germany's border with the Czech Republic.
One man went missing after being swept away in floodwaters trying to secure his property in Jöhstadt Tuesday night, and a disaster alert was declared in Hof County after torrential rains filled basements, uprooted trees and cut power to many in the region.
Rainfall totals of 3.34 inches (85 mm) over 12 hours were reported in Hof on Tuesday. This area also received around 3.50 inches (89 mm) on July 9.
The severe flooding posed problems in neighboring countries as well.
According to officials, the death toll in Belgium rose to 27 on Saturday with 103 people still missing, a local news source reported.
The Vesdre River in Belgium burst its banks after rounds of heavy rain on Tuesday and Wednesday and sent raging rapids into the town of Pepinster, the AP stated. The force of the water caused several buildings to collapse, Mayor Philippe Godin said in a press briefing.
In the background of an interview with Mayor Godin, camera crews captured water rushing through a building, more of the wall collapsing and residents climbing onto the roof before jumping onto the neighboring building to escape the crumbling structure.
Major highways in Belgium were also submerged in floodwater and railway service was stopped. A train was derailed in the Belgian Ardennes after a portion of the track was washed away by floodwaters.
Dutch media on Wednesday showed people being rescued from a historic mill in the Netherlands that was partially submerged in floodwaters estimated to be about 5 feet (1.5 m) deep, the AP reported.
Where the Meuse and Rur rivers snake through the Netherlands, water levels reached record-high levels, passing heights that led to severe flooding in 1993 and 1995, Reuters reported.
On Thursday, evacuation orders were announced for the town of Echternach in Luxembourg. The Grand Ducal Fire and Rescue Corps, with the help of the police and the army, stated that they will be assisting residents.
To the southwest, police ordered cars parked near the Alzette River in Clausen, Luxembourg, to be moved after the rising river burst its banks early Thursday morning, local time.
In Cologne, rainfall totals from Tuesday to Thursday ranged from 4.49-6.64 inches (114-169 mm) across the city, some of the highest from the event. The German city typically records around 2.65 inches (67 mm) during the month of July.
Widespread rainfall totals of 4-6 inches (100-150 mm) were reported across western Germany, Belgium and Netherlands. Rainfall totals were all around 5 inches (125 mm) across the country of Luxembourg, said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Tyler Roys.
In a tweet on Friday, the European Space Agency announced it was using its Copernicus and Sentinel 1 satellites to gather more data over the weekend o the flooding. They have already collected enough data to provide some mapping of the flood extent to teams on the ground.
On Saturday morning, a dam broke in Ophoven, Wassenberg, Germany, spurring evacuations of around 700 residents.
130 people evacuated on Sunday during flooding in Schonau am Konigsee, Germany.
As rescue and recovery efforts continue into early week with floodwaters receding, AccuWeather Meteorologist Tony Zartman said mainly dry weather is expected to continue across the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and western Germany as high pressure builds across northwest Europe.
While partly sunny and dry weather will prevail, along with afternoon temperatures largely in the 70s F (21-26 C), major river flooding will continue, according to Zartman.
"Overall, the drier pattern will continue through the rest of the week, which will be good news for the rescue and cleanup operations," said Roys. "This can also allow river levels to begin gradually decreasing."
The same storm system that brought catastrophic flooding to Germany and Belgium first arrived in Europe early in the week, bringing London's single-day heaviest rainfall since 1983, which flooded streets and submerged cars around the city.
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