Europe flood death toll tops 180 as rescuers dig deeper
The death toll from the heavy flooding that swept through parts of western Europe has passed 180 on Sunday after rescue workers dug deeper into debris left by receding waters.
Thousands have been left homeless, as rescuers race to find survivors while hundreds remain missing. Rescue workers laboured to deal with damage laid bare by receding water and thoughts turned to the lengthy job of rebuilding communities devastated in minutes.
Police put the toll from the hard-hit Ahrweiler area of western Germany's Rhineland-Palatinate state at 110 and said they feared the number may still rise. In neighbouring North Rhine-Westphalia state, Germany's most populous, 45 people were confirmed dead, including four firefighters. And Belgium has confirmed 27 casualties.
Chancellor Angela Merkel was due to visit Schuld, a village near Ahrweiler that was devastated by the flooding, later Sunday. Her visit comes after Germany's president went to the area on Saturday and made clear that it will need long-term support.
Homes have been covered in water and brought down in some cases and vehicles carried away by streams after rivers and reservoirs burst their banks.
The vast majority of deaths have occurred in Germany, while media reports suggest at least 24 people have died in Belgium. It is estimated thousands of Germans have been homeless after buildings collapsed or were deemed high risk.
The Netherlands remains on high alert as overflowing rivers threatened towns and villages throughout the southern province of Limburg.
Luxembourg and France has also been affected by flooding, which erupted amid relentless rain and storms. Some 141 people died in the flooding in Germany’s worst natural disaster in more than half a century.
That included about 98 in the Ahrweiler district south of Cologne, according to police. Hundreds of people were still missing or unreachable as several areas were inaccessible due to high water levels while communication in some places was still down. Residents and business owners struggled to pick up the pieces in battered towns.
A climate scientist at Imperial College London Ralf Toumi said, "Floods always happen, and they are like random events, like rolling the dice. But we've changed the odds on rolling the dice."
An earlier report said the German emergency teams were still searching for hundreds of missing people after the worst floods that caused dozens of deaths.
Scientists have long said that climate change would lead to heavier downpours. But determining its role in last week's relentless downpours will take at least several weeks to research.
The rescue workers toiled to clear up the devastation and prevent further damage.
Police said that more than 90 people are now known to have died in western Germany's Ahrweiler county, one of the worst-hit areas, and more casualties are feared.
There was flooding Saturday night in the German-Czech border area, across the country from where last week's floods hit, and in Germany's southeastern corner and over the border in Austria.
Neighbouring Belgium counted at least 23 dead, while Luxembourg and the Netherlands were badly affected by the floods, and thousands were evacuated in the city of Maastricht.
But the death toll in Germany was the highest, at 103 deaths, and is likely to rise with large numbers of people still missing in the hardest-hit states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate.