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Death toll from European flooding tops 150 as water recedes

Officials fear that more bodies might be found in cars and trucks that were swept away.

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Damaged cars are piled up on a residential street after flooding in Chenee, Province of Liege, Belgium, Friday July 16, 2021. Severe flooding in Germany and Belgium has turned streams and streets into raging torrents that have swept away cars and caused houses to collapse. (AP Photo/Valentin Bianchi)

Damaged cars are piled up on a residential street after flooding in Chenee, Province of Liege, Belgium, Friday July 16, 2021. Severe flooding in Germany and Belgium has turned streams and streets into raging torrents that have swept away cars and caused houses to collapse. (AP Photo/Valentin Bianchi)

Damaged cars are piled up on a residential street after flooding in Chenee, Province of Liege, Belgium, Friday July 16, 2021. Severe flooding in Germany and Belgium has turned streams and streets into raging torrents that have swept away cars and caused houses to collapse. (AP Photo/Valentin Bianchi)

The death toll from disastrous flooding in western Europe has risen above 150 as rescue workers toiled to clear up the devastation and prevent further damage.

Police said more than 90 people are known to have died in western Germany’s Ahrweiler county, in hard-hit Rhineland-Palatinate state.

Another 43 people were confirmed dead in neighbouring North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state.

Belgian broadcaster RTBF reported that the death toll in Belgium rose to 24 on Saturday.

Waters are receding across many of the affected regions, but officials fear that more bodies might be found in cars and trucks that were swept away.

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Two bridges at the river Ahr are blocked by rubble in Altenahr, western Germany (Lino Mirgeler/dpa/AP)

Two bridges at the river Ahr are blocked by rubble in Altenahr, western Germany (Lino Mirgeler/dpa/AP)

AP/PA Images

Two bridges at the river Ahr are blocked by rubble in Altenahr, western Germany (Lino Mirgeler/dpa/AP)

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“A lot of people have lost everything they spent their lives building up — their possessions, their home, the roof over their heads,” German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after meeting rescue workers and others in the town of Erftstadt.

“It may only be possible to clear up in weeks how much damage needs to be compensated,” he said.

Mr Steinmeier said that people in the affected areas are counting on continuing support.

“Many people here in these regions have nothing left but their hope, and we must not disappoint this hope,” he said.

At least three houses and part of a mansion in the town’s Blessem district collapsed.

The German military used armoured vehicles on Saturday to clear away cars and trucks overwhelmed by the floodwaters on a nearby road, some of which were still at least partly submerged.

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Debris surrounds houses in Schuld, Germany (Michael Probst/AP)

Debris surrounds houses in Schuld, Germany (Michael Probst/AP)

AP/PA Images

Debris surrounds houses in Schuld, Germany (Michael Probst/AP)

Officials feared that some people didn’t manage to escape in Erftstadt, but by Saturday morning no casualties had been confirmed.

In the Ahrweiler area, police warned people of a potential risk from downed power lines and urged curious visitors to stay away, as would-be sightseers were blocking some roads.

Many areas are still without electricity and telephone service which, combined with multiple counting in some cases, appears to have accounted for large numbers of missing people that authorities gave immediately after the floods hit on Wednesday and Thursday.

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Rescuers check flooded cars on a road in Erftstadt (Michael Probst/AP)

Rescuers check flooded cars on a road in Erftstadt (Michael Probst/AP)

AP/PA Images

Rescuers check flooded cars on a road in Erftstadt (Michael Probst/AP)

Around 700 people were evacuated from part of the German town of Wassenberg, on the Dutch border, after the breach of a dyke on the Rur river.

Train lines and roads remained blocked in many areas of eastern Belgium. The national railway service said traffic would start returning to normal on Monday.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo were visiting flood-damaged towns on Saturday, according to state broadcaster RTBF.

Southern parts of the Netherlands have also been hit by heavy flooding, and volunteers worked through the night to shore up dykes and protect roads.

Thousands of residents of the southern towns of Bunde, Voulwames, Brommelen and Geulle were allowed to return home on Saturday morning after being evacuated on Thursday and Friday.

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A damaged street in Liege province, Belgium (Valentin Bianchi/AP)

A damaged street in Liege province, Belgium (Valentin Bianchi/AP)

AP/PA Images

A damaged street in Liege province, Belgium (Valentin Bianchi/AP)

Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who visited the region on Friday, said the region faced “three disasters”.

“First, there was corona, now these floods, and soon people will have to work on clean-up and recovery,” he said.

“It is disaster after disaster after disaster. But we will not abandon Limburg,” the southern province hit by the floods.

His government has declared the flooding a state of emergency, opening up national funds for those affected.

In Switzerland, heavy rain caused several rivers and lakes to burst their banks, with authorities in the city of Lucerne closing several pedestrian bridges over the Reuss river.


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