More than 60 people died and dozens declared missing as severe flooding in Germany and Belgium on Thursday turned streams and streets into raging... Over 60 dead, Dozens Missing as Severe Floods Hit  Europe

More than 60 people died and dozens declared missing as severe flooding in Germany and Belgium on Thursday turned streams and streets into raging torrents that swept away cars and caused houses to collapse.

Recent storms across parts of western Europe made rivers and reservoirs burst their banks, triggering flash floods overnight after the saturated soil couldn’t absorb any more water.

“I grieve for those who have lost their lives in this disaster,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a visit to Washington, expressing shock at the scope of the flooding. “We still don’t know the number. But it will be many.”
She pledged that everything would be done to find those still missing, adding: “‘Heavy rain and flooding’ doesn’t capture what happened.”

Authorities in North Rhine-Westphalia state said at least 30 people had died, while 28 deaths were reported in Rhineland-Palatinate state to the south. Belgian media reported eight deaths in that country.

Among the worst-hit German villages was Schuld, where several homes collapsed and dozens of people remained unaccounted for.

Rescue operations were hampered by blocked roads and phone and internet outages across the Eifel, a volcanic region of rolling hills and small valleys. Some villages were reduced to rubble as old brick and timber houses couldn’t withstand the sudden rush of water, often carrying trees and other debris as it gushed through narrow streets.

Karl-Heinz Grimm, who had come to help his parents in Schuld, said he had never seen the small Ahr River surge in such a deadly torrent.

“This night, it was like madness,” he said.

Dozens of people had to be rescued from the roofs of their houses with inflatable boats and helicopters. Hundreds of soldiers were deployed to assist in the rescue efforts.

“There are people dead, there are people missing, there are many who are still in danger,” the governor of Rhineland-Palatinate state, Malu Dreyer, told the regional parliament. “We have never seen such a disaster. It’s really devastating.”

The 52nd Civil Engineer squadron and several volunteers from the U.S. air base at Spangdahlem filled and distributed hundreds of sandbags to help protect homes and businesses in the area, the U.S. European Command said.

In Belgium, the Vesdre River spilled over its banks and sent water churning through the streets of Pepinster, near Liege, where a rescue operation by firefighters went wrong when a small boat capsized and three elderly people disappeared.

“Unfortunately, they were quickly engulfed,” said Mayor Philippe Godin. “I fear they are dead.”

In Verviers, the prosecutor’s office said several bodies had been found but could not confirm local media reports that four people were killed there.

Major highways were inundated in southern and eastern parts of the country, and the railway said all trains were halted.
In Liege, a city of 200,000, the Meuse River overflowed its banks Thursday and the mayor asked people living nearby to move to higher ground.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged to help, and Pope Francis sent condolences, with his office saying the pontiff was praying for those injured and missing, as well as those who have lost their livelihoods.

The full extent of the damage was still unclear, with many villages cut off by floods and landslides that made roads impassable. Videos on social media showed cars floating down streets and houses partially collapsed. Many of the dead were only discovered after floodwaters receded.

Authorities in the Rhine-Sieg county south of Cologne ordered the evacuation of several villages below the Steinbach reservoir amid fears a dam could break.

Two firefighters died in rescue operations in North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state. Gov. Armin Laschet paid tribute to them and pledged swift help.

“We don’t know the extent of the damage yet, but we won’t leave the communities, the people affected alone,” he said during a visit to the city of the flood-hit city of Hagen.