BERLIN—Rescuers in Germany and neighboring countries were racing to find survivors from the region’s worst flooding this century, as the death toll rose to over 100 with hundreds still missing following days of torrential rainfall that some politicians and scientists linked to climate change.
German authorities used helicopters and drones to locate survivors who fled to roofs and high ground without being able to collect any of their belongings when the homes were engulfed by flash floods that turned streets into rivers, swept away cars and crushed houses.
The German military joined in the effort to support thousands of rescue workers amid a shortage of helicopters and other hardware after hundreds of houses collapsed or became severely damaged in the Western states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia. At least 93 people had been killed in Germany, according to local authorities on Friday.
Some 1,300 people are currently unaccounted for in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, a town about 35 miles south of Cologne, according to local authorities, though this may in part be due to mobile phone services being interrupted in parts of the region.
Thousands of survivors were being put up in schools, hotels and sports halls amid a warning not to return to their homes even if the waters subside due to danger of the foundations crumbling after days of flooding, RhinelandPalatinate’s premier Malu Dreyer said in a broadcast interview Friday. Towns in the area are known for their medieval urban cores made up of half-timbered housing.
“I am shaken by the catastrophe that has caused the suffering of so many people in the flooded areas. My condolences go to the relatives of the dead and missing. I thank from my heart the many tireless helpers and rescue services,” German Chancellor
said in a tweet released by her spokesman on Thursday.
Similar scenes were playing out in southern Belgium, where at least 14 people died and many were being evacuated in the worst-hit areas in the Wallonia region, local authorities said. Across the border in the Dutch province of Limburg, rescuers were evacuating areas hit by the floods.
Meteorologists blamed the flooding on a rare summer cyclone that lingered over the flooded areas for days. They said changes in global weather patterns meant the storm remained stationed over Europe instead of drifting eastward.
The jet stream, a westbound wind current over the North Atlantic, has begun to meander over Western Europe in recent years, creating pockets of weather that could briefly capture storms over the area, said