death toll in floods in Europe exceeds 160, costly reconstruction to come – .

death toll in floods in Europe exceeds 160, costly reconstruction to come – .

BERLIN – Rescuers worked to deal with the damage laid bare by the falling waters on Saturday as the death toll from catastrophic floods in Western Europe surpassed 160 and thoughts turned to the long work of rebuilding devastated communities in a few minutes.

The death toll in the western German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, home to the hard-hit Ahrweiler county, has risen to 98. Another 43 people have been confirmed dead in the neighboring state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Belgium’s national crisis center said the number of confirmed deaths in the country had risen to 27.

Days of heavy rain turned normally minor rivers and streets into raging torrents this week and caused catastrophic flooding that swept away cars, engulfed homes and trapped residents.

Immediately after the floods on Wednesday and Thursday, German authorities listed a large number of people missing – something apparently caused in large part by confusion, multiple reports and communication difficulties in the affected areas, some of which were lacking in electricity and telephone.

Authorities were still worried about finding more dead on Saturday, but said the number of people missing had steadily declined, without providing precise figures. In Belgium, 103 people were reported missing on Saturday, but the crisis center said lost or uncharged cell phones and people taken to hospitals without identification who had not been able to contact relatives were considered factors in the count.

Meanwhile, receding flood waters have facilitated access to much of the affected areas and revealed the extent of the damage.

“A lot of people lost everything they had spent their lives building – their belongings, their house, the roof over their heads,” German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after meeting with rescuers and d other people in the town of Erftstadt.

“It may only be possible to clarify in a few weeks the amount of damage to be compensated,” he said.

Steinmeier said people in the affected areas need continued support.

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

In Erftstadt, a town southwest of Cologne, a heartbreaking rescue effort unfolded on Friday when the soil in a neighborhood gave way. At least three houses and part of a mansion in the Blessem district have collapsed.

The German military used armored vehicles to evacuate cars and trucks submerged in flood water onto a nearby road, some of which remained at least partially submerged. Authorities feared some people had failed to escape Erftstadt, but no casualties were confirmed on Saturday afternoon.

In the Ahrweiler area, police have warned of a potential risk of power line outages and urged curious visitors to stay away. They complained on Twitter that potential tourists were blocking certain roads.

About 700 people were evacuated from part of the German town of Wassenberg, on the Dutch border, after a breakwater dike on the Rur river broke.

Visiting Erftstadt with Steinmeier, the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia Armin Laschet promised to organize aid to those immediately affected “in the coming days”. He said regional and federal authorities would discuss in the coming days how to help with reconstruction efforts. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet plans to discuss the issue on Wednesday.

“We will do everything so that what needs to be rebuilt can be rebuilt,” said Laschet.

In eastern Belgium, many train lines and roads remained blocked.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo visited the affected towns on Saturday.

A resident of the Belgian town of Herk-de-Stad said she delayed sleep to try to empty her house of water.

“We pumped through the night trying to get the water out of the house,” Elke Lenaerts told Broadcaster VTM.

Parts of the south of the Netherlands also experienced heavy flooding, although thousands of residents were allowed to return to their homes after being evacuated on Thursday and Friday.

Acting Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who visited the region on Friday, said that “first there was the crown, now this flooding, and soon people will have to work on cleanup and salvage.”

“It’s disaster after disaster after disaster. But we will not give up Limburg, ”he added. His government declared a state of flood emergency, opening national funds for those affected.

Among other efforts to help flood victims, the Hertog Jan brewery, based in the affected area, distributed 3,000 cases of beer so residents could lift their belongings off the ground to protect them from the floods.

An emergency dike in the town of Horn failed and some houses were flooded. The authorities issued a warning not to approach the Meuse because of the debris. Rescuers worked to save a cow stuck up to her neck in muddy water.

Across Germany, flooding occurred on Saturday evening following torrential rains in the Saechsische Schweiz area near Dresden and across the border in the Czech Republic.

Roads, basements and railways were flooded, disrupting rail service between the Czech town of Decin and Bad Schandau, Germany. A children’s summer camp on the Czech side had to be evacuated.


Angela Charlton in Paris, Molly Quell in Amsterdam and Karel Janicek in Prague contributed to this reporting.


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