At least 80 people have died in West Germany due to the intense floods of recent days, and at least 11 others have died in Belgium, where heavy rains have caused flooding and flooding of rivers. The situation is particularly difficult in the German states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia, where numerous houses have been destroyed by floods and there are hundreds of missing people.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on a visit to the United States, said that only in the next few days it will be possible to make an overall estimate of the extent of the damage and has promised full assistance from her government, both for relief and for reconstruction. . Addressing the populations affected by the floods, he expressed his condolences for the numerous deaths and added that “we will not leave you alone in this difficult and terrible moment”.
In the most affected areas, about 15 thousand people have been at work since yesterday, including police officers, soldiers, rescuers and firefighters. A substantial part of the activities involved the use of helicopters to recover and rescue people who were stranded on the roofs after the floods of the rivers that had flooded their homes.
Other interventions concerned the clearing of water and debris from the roads, in order to allow a more agile passage of the rescue teams. Some bridges collapsed due to flooding of the rivers, making it more difficult to organize relief efforts in certain areas.
The floods in Rhineland-Palatinate are considered to be among the worst ever to have affected West Germany. They were caused by a low pressure front that brought heavy and persistent rains from the beginning of the week, which then caused some rivers that flow in the area and on the border with Belgium and the Netherlands to swell, such as the Rhine and, more to the west, the Meuse.
The situation is in fact particularly difficult also in Belgium, where several cities have been flooded following the flooding of rivers. In Liège, one of the largest cities in the country, the local administration has urged the population to leave their homes and the area for fear that the Meuse could flood, causing further damage. The increased inflow of water may not be contained by a dam in the area, leading to further problems.
In the Netherlands, floods have been reported in the Maastricht area, where around 10,000 residents have been required to leave their homes. In Valkenburg, a little further east, the center was invaded by water and it was necessary to evacuate some structures, including rest homes; no deaths were reported.
Both German and Belgian authorities have attributed the cause of the unusual heavy rains in recent days to climate change. The progressive warming of the planet makes extreme weather phenomena more frequent, but it is difficult to trace a single case to changes in climate mainly due to human activities.