June 16, 2024

Germany cleans up after massive floods

German emergency workers have started a major clean-up after heavy rains triggered massive flooding in the southwest of the country, while parts of Belgium and the Netherlands were also hit. 

A huge downpour Friday in the German state of Saarland deluged buildings, left streets deep underwater and sparked evacuations, with rescuers carrying stranded residents to safety in boats.

Officials said it was the worst flooding in the area in nearly 30 years, with the capital Saarbruecken badly affected and reports saying that a breach in a dyke led to a power station in the state being shut down.

No deaths were reported but at least one person was injured.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz, visiting a village in the affected area, said that “we can see here what violence nature can cause and how much we have to constantly prepare for such events.” 

He praised the work of emergency services in helping local residents and promised help for those affected by the disaster.

Saarland state premier Anke Rehlinger said authorities still did not have a complete picture of the damage but it was expected to be “considerable”. 

The heavy rains had eased early Saturday, however, and a severe weather warning for the area was lifted. 

About 850 workers from the federal relief agency were dispatched to Saarland to help tackle the floods, joining several thousand people, many of them volunteers, in the state, the interior ministry said. 

Water rescue teams were sent in from other states and extra fire-fighting units were deployed from the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, it said. 

Germany has faced worsening floods in recent years. 

In 2021, the regions of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia were hit by catastrophic floods that killed more than 180 people.

In Belgium, the province of Liege was hit by severe flooding overnight into Saturday, with authorities receiving hundreds of requests for assistance and 150 firefighters deployed, governor Herve Jamar said.

The main help provided by emergency services was pumping water out of flooded buildings, he said. 

Over the border in the Dutch province of Limburg, two campsites were evacuated early Saturday as they were threatened by rising floodwaters, officials said. 

Meanwhile the Moselle area in France’s northeast was placed on flood alert as water levels rose in rivers following heavy rains.

Experts say climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of floods.

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