Rescuers and volunteers are digging through mud in parts of western Europe, where the number of people dying in flash floods now exceeds 180 – and as the tumultuous waters reach Austria.
The floodwaters recede in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, where many were left with destroyed homes, hundreds were evacuated and authorities continue to worry about the condition of a large dam.
The death toll now stands at 183, although there are fears the number could rise further as more bodies are expected to be found as the waters recede and reveal the extent of the devastation.
In many areas, the spotlight has turned to distributing cash donations to get people to buy urgently needed goods, provide shelter and compensation for homeless people, and continue to hunt survivors.
In Germany – where at least 156 people have been killed – the authorities are ready to provide comprehensive aid, and the Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Schuld in Rhineland-Palatinate, one of the most affected regions today.
The Chancellor was in the United States when the floods hit, but has now returned to her country.
Torrential rainy days rivers left overflowing, causing water to rise in the streets – lifting cars, tearing power lines and causing houses to collapse.
“Many people lost everything they had spent their lives building – their property, their house, the roof over their heads,” German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Saturday in the town of Erftstadt. .
“It may only be possible to determine the amount of damage to be compensated within a few weeks.
“Many people here in these areas have nothing left but their hope, and we must not disappoint that hope.”
BelgiumThe national crisis center said at least 27 people have died there, while train lines and roads remain blocked in the east of the country.
Parts of the south Netherlands were also affected, as torrential rains reached Austria overnight and caused flooding in the town of Hallein, near the German border.
Sébastien Kurz, AustriaThe Chancellor of Alabama, tweeted that rain and storms were causing severe damage in several parts of the country.
“Thank you to all the first responders and volunteers who go out of their way to help! We will not leave the affected people alone and will support reconstruction, ”he said.
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Fears continue to find more dead in Germany and Belgium, but the number of people missing is steadily decreasing.
Hundreds of people were reported missing in the aftermath of the floods.
It is now believed that this is largely due to factors such as confusion, multiple reports, lost or discharged cell phones, and power and network outages.
However, some people are still missing and 103 were still listed as “missing or unreachable” in Belgium on Saturday.
In Erftstadt, south of Cologne, one of the worst-hit cities, the German military uses armored vehicles to clean up damaged cars and trucks.
There were dramatic footage from there on Friday when a landslide caused the ground to collapse in a neighborhood, destroying homes and leaving a huge sinkhole.
Residents were transported – many left with nothing – and forced to queue for € 200 (£ 171) handouts so they could buy basic supplies.
Despite the receding waters, there is still a serious risk for some areas.
The Steinbachtal dam in western Germany was still at risk of rupturing on Saturday and around 4,500 people were evacuated nearby.
Police also warned residents of the Ahrweiler area to be wary of downed power lines and asked visitors to stay away as tourists have blocked the roads.
North Rhine-Westphalia Minister of State Armin Laschet said: “Hundreds of people are ready to drop everything and help us out on the ground, so I want to thank all these volunteers.
“Germany will do everything possible over the next few days to organize the necessary funds.”
Meteorologists said some areas received two months of rain in two days before the floods, with more than 150 liters per square meter falling in 24 hours in parts of western Germany.
Several senior officials in Germany blamed climate change for the disaster.
“Climate change is no longer abstract. We are living it up close and painfully,” said Malu Dreyer, governor of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate.
She said this shows the need to accelerate action on the issue.