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Thousands of villagers in western German were praying for a miracle Friday night amid fears a nearby dam could collapse and inundate their homes with water. 

The villages in the Euskirchen region, near the city of Bonn, have been evacuated with 4,500 told to flee their homes after cracks started appearing in the dam holding back the nearby Steinbach reservoir.

Engineers warned the dam is dangerously close to collapse after a huge amount of water was dumped into the reservoir as three months’ worth of rain fell on the region in just one week, causing widespread devastation.

The dam is designed to vent excess water, but its drainage system has been blocked by debris including trees and rubble from destroyed buildings. The strain was clearly visible Friday as huge cracks appeared in the soil reinforcing the front of the dam.

It is just the latest episode in the evolving weather crisis in central Europe, with more than 120 people killed across Germany and Belgium in some of the worst flooding in decades with more than 1,000 still missing.

By Friday afternoon, the death toll in Germany alone stood at 106 marking the country’s deadliest floods since at least 1962 when more than 300 people were killed in flooding in Hamburg. 

However, there were fears that toll could rise considerably with more than 1,000 people still missing, mostly from the hard-hit Ahrweiler region, south of Bonn, where whole villages were destroyed as the Ahr river broke its banks.

At least another 23 people were killed in neighbouring Belgium where a ‘tsunami-like’ torrent of water inundated parts of Leige and Verviers, causing the Meuse and Vesdre rivers to burst their banks.

Such is the scale of the devastation and human tragedy that economic cost-counting has barely even begun, though one German official said bluntly that the cost is certainly in the ‘billions’.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday she was planning to visit the disaster zone, hours after King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium visited Pepinster, where the water has continued to rise.  

The visit comes just hours after a landslide in the town of Blessem, near Cologne, killed an unknown number of people when waterlogged ground collapsed into a nearby gravel pit – taking homes, cars, and families with it. 

Helicopters circled overhead following the collapse, looking for anyone left to save. It is thought 55 people were evacuated from the town overnight, but an unknown number returned in the morning to check the damage when the landslide struck.      

There are fears the crisis could worsen the a dam at the Steinbach reservoir (insert) on the verge of collapse due to the pressure of water behind it, as 4,500 people living in three villages below (top right) told to evacuate their homes

There are fears the crisis could worsen the a dam at the Steinbach reservoir (insert) on the verge of collapse due to the pressure of water behind it, as 4,500 people living in three villages below (top right) told to evacuate their homes

There are fears the crisis could worsen the a dam at the Steinbach reservoir (insert) on the verge of collapse due to the pressure of water behind it, as 4,500 people living in three villages below (top right) told to evacuate their homes

Engineers warned a huge amount of pressure has built up behind the dam after it was inundated with water and its drainage system jammed, with huge cracks visible in the soil wall helping to hold it up (pictured bottom)

Engineers warned a huge amount of pressure has built up behind the dam after it was inundated with water and its drainage system jammed, with huge cracks visible in the soil wall helping to hold it up (pictured bottom)

Engineers warned a huge amount of pressure has built up behind the dam after it was inundated with water and its drainage system jammed, with huge cracks visible in the soil wall helping to hold it up (pictured bottom)

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It comes after a landslide in the flood-damaged town of Blessem, near Cologne, killed ‘several’ people on Friday as Germany’s worst flooding crisis in decades continued to worsen

Houses on the outskirts of Blessem were torn to pieces as the ground beneath them collapsed and fell into a nearby gravel pit in the wake of torrential rains that have caused chaos in western Germany

Houses on the outskirts of Blessem were torn to pieces as the ground beneath them collapsed and fell into a nearby gravel pit in the wake of torrential rains that have caused chaos in western Germany

Houses on the outskirts of Blessem were torn to pieces as the ground beneath them collapsed and fell into a nearby gravel pit in the wake of torrential rains that have caused chaos in western Germany

A section of sewage pipe is visible (left) alongside the partially-destroyed remains of a house in Blessem after a landslide

A section of sewage pipe is visible (left) alongside the partially-destroyed remains of a house in Blessem after a landslide

A section of sewage pipe is visible (left) alongside the partially-destroyed remains of a house in Blessem after a landslide

Chunks of road, pieces of concrete sewage pipe, cars, and wrecked buildings are shown collapsed into a watery hole on the outskirts of Blessem, Germany, following the landslide

Chunks of road, pieces of concrete sewage pipe, cars, and wrecked buildings are shown collapsed into a watery hole on the outskirts of Blessem, Germany, following the landslide

Chunks of road, pieces of concrete sewage pipe, cars, and wrecked buildings are shown collapsed into a watery hole on the outskirts of Blessem, Germany, following the landslide

Heavy rains caused mudslides and flooding in the town of Blessem, western Germany, killing an unknown number of people

Heavy rains caused mudslides and flooding in the town of Blessem, western Germany, killing an unknown number of people

Heavy rains caused mudslides and flooding in the town of Blessem, western Germany, killing an unknown number of people

Aerial view shows an area completely destroyed by the floods in the Blessem district of Erftstadt, western Germany

Aerial view shows an area completely destroyed by the floods in the Blessem district of Erftstadt, western Germany

Aerial view shows an area completely destroyed by the floods in the Blessem district of Erftstadt, western Germany

'Several' people have been killed in the landslip, local officials said, though they were unable to say precisely how many

'Several' people have been killed in the landslip, local officials said, though they were unable to say precisely how many

‘Several’ people have been killed in the landslip, local officials said, though they were unable to say precisely how many

Cars lie crumpled against concrete blocks that once formed part of the sewer system after the ground gave way due to a landslide in Blessem, Germany

Cars lie crumpled against concrete blocks that once formed part of the sewer system after the ground gave way due to a landslide in Blessem, Germany

Cars lie crumpled against concrete blocks that once formed part of the sewer system after the ground gave way due to a landslide in Blessem, Germany

Two cars lie at the bottom of a deep hole created when waterlogged ground collapsed into a nearby gravel pit in Germany

Two cars lie at the bottom of a deep hole created when waterlogged ground collapsed into a nearby gravel pit in Germany

Two cars lie at the bottom of a deep hole created when waterlogged ground collapsed into a nearby gravel pit in Germany

A partly-destroyed car that was parked in a garage is left hanging off the edge of a cliff after the ground collapsed in Blessem

A partly-destroyed car that was parked in a garage is left hanging off the edge of a cliff after the ground collapsed in Blessem

A partly-destroyed car that was parked in a garage is left hanging off the edge of a cliff after the ground collapsed in Blessem

The death toll in Germany from the flooding had already topped 80 even before the landslide hit Blessem, sweeping away homes and part of a castle

The death toll in Germany from the flooding had already topped 80 even before the landslide hit Blessem, sweeping away homes and part of a castle

The death toll in Germany from the flooding had already topped 80 even before the landslide hit Blessem, sweeping away homes and part of a castle

Officials said the landslide in Blessem had 'certainly' killed people though were unable to immediately say how many amid chaos caused by Germany's deadliest flooding crisis for decades

Officials said the landslide in Blessem had 'certainly' killed people though were unable to immediately say how many amid chaos caused by Germany's deadliest flooding crisis for decades

Officials said the landslide in Blessem had ‘certainly’ killed people though were unable to immediately say how many amid chaos caused by Germany’s deadliest flooding crisis for decades

A rescue helicopter circles over the town as emergency services try to save 15 people that went back to their homes and got trapped when the landslide hit

A rescue helicopter circles over the town as emergency services try to save 15 people that went back to their homes and got trapped when the landslide hit

A rescue helicopter circles over the town as emergency services try to save 15 people that went back to their homes and got trapped when the landslide hit

Water drains away from the town of Blessem, Germany, after a landslide caused part of the ground to collapse (top left and centre), killing 'several' people on Friday

Water drains away from the town of Blessem, Germany, after a landslide caused part of the ground to collapse (top left and centre), killing 'several' people on Friday

Water drains away from the town of Blessem, Germany, after a landslide caused part of the ground to collapse (top left and centre), killing ‘several’ people on Friday

Collapsed ground is seen near the village of Blessem, Germany, after flooding caused a landslide which killed 'several' people

Collapsed ground is seen near the village of Blessem, Germany, after flooding caused a landslide which killed 'several' people

Collapsed ground is seen near the village of Blessem, Germany, after flooding caused a landslide which killed ‘several’ people

A bicycle that was tied up outside a house in Blessem now hangs on the edge of a giant hole after the ground fell away

A bicycle that was tied up outside a house in Blessem now hangs on the edge of a giant hole after the ground fell away

A bicycle that was tied up outside a house in Blessem now hangs on the edge of a giant hole after the ground fell away

A man rides his bicycle through the flooded streets of Erfstadt in

A man rides his bicycle through the flooded streets of Erfstadt in

A man rides his bicycle through the flooded streets of in Blessem, Germany, following devastating floods that have killed nearly 100

Damaged cars lie in the rubble in an area completely destroyed by the floods in the Blessem district of Erftstadt, Germany

Damaged cars lie in the rubble in an area completely destroyed by the floods in the Blessem district of Erftstadt, Germany

Damaged cars lie in the rubble in an area completely destroyed by the floods in the Blessem district of Erftstadt, Germany

An aerial view of the landslide shows how what used to be a street corner collapsed into the ground, taking the road, houses, cars and other debris with it

An aerial view of the landslide shows how what used to be a street corner collapsed into the ground, taking the road, houses, cars and other debris with it

An aerial view of the landslide shows how what used to be a street corner collapsed into the ground, taking the road, houses, cars and other debris with it

The collapse happened in Blessem, south of Cologne (main), when flooding from the Erft river caused waterlogged ground to collapse into a nearby gravel pit (inset) - dragging homes and cars down with it

The collapse happened in Blessem, south of Cologne (main), when flooding from the Erft river caused waterlogged ground to collapse into a nearby gravel pit (inset) - dragging homes and cars down with it

The collapse happened in Blessem, south of Cologne (main), when flooding from the Erft river caused waterlogged ground to collapse into a nearby gravel pit (inset) – dragging homes and cars down with it

The flooding crisis was triggered by a heavy and slow-moving rainstorm over western Germany that dumped more than a months' worth of rain in a night, and also impacted parts of the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg

The flooding crisis was triggered by a heavy and slow-moving rainstorm over western Germany that dumped more than a months' worth of rain in a night, and also impacted parts of the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg

The flooding crisis was triggered by a heavy and slow-moving rainstorm over western Germany that dumped more than a months’ worth of rain in a night, and also impacted parts of the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg

King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium visit a flooded street in Pepinster after the area was ravaged by heavy flooding

King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium visit a flooded street in Pepinster after the area was ravaged by heavy flooding

King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium visit a flooded street in Pepinster after the area was ravaged by heavy flooding

King Philippe comforts a woman after her home was flooded in Pepinster, Belgium, even as water continues to rise in the area

King Philippe comforts a woman after her home was flooded in Pepinster, Belgium, even as water continues to rise in the area

King Philippe comforts a woman after her home was flooded in Pepinster, Belgium, even as water continues to rise in the area

King Philippe of Belgium spoke to residents affected by heavy flooding in Pepinster as he visited the disaster zone on Friday

King Philippe of Belgium spoke to residents affected by heavy flooding in Pepinster as he visited the disaster zone on Friday

King Philippe of Belgium spoke to residents affected by heavy flooding in Pepinster as he visited the disaster zone on Friday

King Philippe and Queen Mathilde surveyed the damage caused by heavy rainfall and flooding in Pepinster, Beligum

King Philippe and Queen Mathilde surveyed the damage caused by heavy rainfall and flooding in Pepinster, Beligum

King Philippe and Queen Mathilde surveyed the damage caused by heavy rainfall and flooding in Pepinster, Beligum

Local residents try to clear up a shop following heavy rainfall and flooding in Pepinster, Belgium, on Friday

Local residents try to clear up a shop following heavy rainfall and flooding in Pepinster, Belgium, on Friday

Local residents try to clear up a shop following heavy rainfall and flooding in Pepinster, Belgium, on Friday

Authorities in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate said 63 people had died there, including 12 residents of an assisted living facility for disabled people in the town of Sinzig who were surprised by a sudden rush of water from the nearby Ahr River. 

In neighboring North Rhine-Westphalia state officials put the death toll at 43, but warned that the figure could increase. 

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was ‘stunned’ by the devastation caused by the flooding and pledged support to the families of those killed and to cities and towns facing significant damage.

‘In the hour of need, our country stands together,’ Steinmeier said in a statement. ‘It’s important that we show solidarity for those from whom the flood has taken everything.’

Rescuers sought to save people trapped in their homes in the German town of Erftstadt, southwest of Cologne. Regional authorities said several people had died after their houses collapsed when the ground beneath them sank suddenly. Aerial photos showed what appeared to be a massive sinkhole.

‘We managed to get 50 people out of their houses last night,’ county administrator Frank Rock said. ‘We know of 15 people who still need to be rescued.’

Speaking to German broadcaster n-tv, Rock said authorities had no precise number yet for how many had died in the flash floods that turned roads into wild raging torrents, ripping up cobblestones, collapsing homes and flipping parked cars into piles of rubble.

‘One has to assume that under the circumstances some people didn’t manage to escape,’ he said.

Authorities were still trying to account for hundreds of people listed as missing, but cautioned that the high number could be due to duplicated reports and difficulties reaching people because of disrupted roads and phone service.

After Germany, where more than 100 people have died, Belgium was the hardest hit by the floods that caused homes to be ripped away. 

Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden told the VRT network Friday that the country’s official confirmed death toll had grown to 20, with 20 other people still missing.

Water levels on the Meuse Rriver that runs from Belgium into the Netherlands remains critical, and several dikes were at risk of collapsing, Verlinden said. 

Authorities in the southern Dutch town of Venlo evacuated 200 hospital patients due to the looming threat of flooding from the river.

Flash floods this week followed days of heavy rainfall in Western Europe. Thousands of people remained homeless in Germany after their houses were destroyed or deemed at-risk by authorities. 

An aerial image shows the extent of flood damage in Shuld, a town in the Ahrweiler region of Germany, which was hardest-hit by flooding which swept away homes overnight Wednesday

An aerial image shows the extent of flood damage in Shuld, a town in the Ahrweiler region of Germany, which was hardest-hit by flooding which swept away homes overnight Wednesday

An aerial image shows the extent of flood damage in Shuld, a town in the Ahrweiler region of Germany, which was hardest-hit by flooding which swept away homes overnight Wednesday

Rescue crews are now sifting through rubble in the Ahrweiler region (town of Shuld, pictured) where 1,300 people are missing amid warnings the death toll could rise considerably

Rescue crews are now sifting through rubble in the Ahrweiler region (town of Shuld, pictured) where 1,300 people are missing amid warnings the death toll could rise considerably

Rescue crews are now sifting through rubble in the Ahrweiler region (town of Shuld, pictured) where 1,300 people are missing amid warnings the death toll could rise considerably

An aerial picture taken with a drone shows the destroyed village of Schuld in the district of Ahrweiler after heavy flooding of the river Ahr

An aerial picture taken with a drone shows the destroyed village of Schuld in the district of Ahrweiler after heavy flooding of the river Ahr

An aerial picture taken with a drone shows the destroyed village of Schuld in the district of Ahrweiler after heavy flooding of the river Ahr

Dozens have died and more than 1,000 people are missing after Germany was hit by some of the deadliest flooding in the country's modern history

Dozens have died and more than 1,000 people are missing after Germany was hit by some of the deadliest flooding in the country's modern history

Dozens have died and more than 1,000 people are missing after Germany was hit by some of the deadliest flooding in the country’s modern history

An aerial view taken with a drone shows a damaged car at a cemetery in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany

An aerial view taken with a drone shows a damaged car at a cemetery in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany

An aerial view taken with a drone shows a damaged car at a cemetery in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany

Damaged cars pile up on a street after flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany

Damaged cars pile up on a street after flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany

Damaged cars pile up on a street after flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany

A local surveys the damage caused by flooding in Bad Neuenahr, in Ahrweiler district, where most of the missing hail from

A local surveys the damage caused by flooding in Bad Neuenahr, in Ahrweiler district, where most of the missing hail from

A local surveys the damage caused by flooding in Bad Neuenahr, in Ahrweiler district, where most of the missing hail from

A view of the pedestrian area of Bad Muenstereifel, which was devastated by flooding after heavy rainfall hit western Germany

A view of the pedestrian area of Bad Muenstereifel, which was devastated by flooding after heavy rainfall hit western Germany

A view of the pedestrian area of Bad Muenstereifel, which was devastated by flooding after heavy rainfall hit western Germany 

People carry their belongings past a broken road in Schuld, Germany

People carry their belongings past a broken road in Schuld, Germany

People carry their belongings past a broken road in Schuld, Germany

People walk past rubble in a street devastated by the floods in Euskirchen, western Germany

People walk past rubble in a street devastated by the floods in Euskirchen, western Germany

People walk past rubble in a street devastated by the floods in Euskirchen, western Germany

A destroyed car lies on its side in a ditch amid the ruins of the town of Schuld, Germany, following severe flooding

A destroyed car lies on its side in a ditch amid the ruins of the town of Schuld, Germany, following severe flooding

A destroyed car lies on its side in a ditch amid the ruins of the town of Schuld, Germany, following severe flooding

A man tries to cleans his garden of mud and other debris in Schuld, Germany, after devastating floods

A man tries to cleans his garden of mud and other debris in Schuld, Germany, after devastating floods

A man tries to cleans his garden of mud and other debris in Schuld, Germany, after devastating floods

An aerial view of the destruction in the pedestrian area of Bad Muenstereifel after heavy rain caused widespread flooding

An aerial view of the destruction in the pedestrian area of Bad Muenstereifel after heavy rain caused widespread flooding

An aerial view of the destruction in the pedestrian area of Bad Muenstereifel after heavy rain caused widespread flooding

Destroyed houses are seen after floods caused major damage in Schuld near Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany

Destroyed houses are seen after floods caused major damage in Schuld near Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany

Destroyed houses are seen after floods caused major damage in Schuld near Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany

Debris hangs on a damaged bridge over the Ahr river in Schuld, Germany, two days after devastating floods hit

Debris hangs on a damaged bridge over the Ahr river in Schuld, Germany, two days after devastating floods hit

Debris hangs on a damaged bridge over the Ahr river in Schuld, Germany, two days after devastating floods hit

Firefighters rest next to debris of houses in Schuld, Germany, after a two-day rescue operation that is far from complete

Firefighters rest next to debris of houses in Schuld, Germany, after a two-day rescue operation that is far from complete

Firefighters rest next to debris of houses in Schuld, Germany, after a two-day rescue operation that is far from complete

A fireman walks past the ruins of a car in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany, after it was swept away by floodwaters

A fireman walks past the ruins of a car in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany, after it was swept away by floodwaters

A fireman walks past the ruins of a car in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany, after it was swept away by floodwaters

A man carrying a shovel on his shoulder walks amid the debris near damaged cars after flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler

A man carrying a shovel on his shoulder walks amid the debris near damaged cars after flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler

A man carrying a shovel on his shoulder walks amid the debris near damaged cars after flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler

A van crushed by the torrents is pressed against a tree after the floods caused major damage in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, western Germany

A van crushed by the torrents is pressed against a tree after the floods caused major damage in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, western Germany

A van crushed by the torrents is pressed against a tree after the floods caused major damage in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, western Germany

Men walk past driftwood, rubble, and an overturned car, as they survey the damage caused by severe floods in Schuld near Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler

Men walk past driftwood, rubble, and an overturned car, as they survey the damage caused by severe floods in Schuld near Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler

Men walk past driftwood, rubble, and an overturned car, as they survey the damage caused by severe floods in Schuld near Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler

A man takes pictures of cars and rubble piled up in a street after the floods caused major damage in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler

A man takes pictures of cars and rubble piled up in a street after the floods caused major damage in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler

A man takes pictures of cars and rubble piled up in a street after the floods caused major damage in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler

Two people walk near damaged vehicles after flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany

Two people walk near damaged vehicles after flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany

Two people walk near damaged vehicles after flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany

A man stands amid rubble and debris after floods caused major damage in Schuld near Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler

A man stands amid rubble and debris after floods caused major damage in Schuld near Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler

A man stands amid rubble and debris after floods caused major damage in Schuld near Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler

People climb over rubble piled up in a street after the floods caused major damage in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler

People climb over rubble piled up in a street after the floods caused major damage in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler

People climb over rubble piled up in a street after the floods caused major damage in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler

A view of debris and damaged buildings amid flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany

A view of debris and damaged buildings amid flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany

A view of debris and damaged buildings amid flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany

A couple hug as they survey the damage caused by severe flooding in Bad Neuenahr after the Ahr river burst its banks

A couple hug as they survey the damage caused by severe flooding in Bad Neuenahr after the Ahr river burst its banks

A couple hug as they survey the damage caused by severe flooding in Bad Neuenahr after the Ahr river burst its banks

A local helps to clear away rubble blocking a street in Schuld, Germany, following disastrous flooding

A local helps to clear away rubble blocking a street in Schuld, Germany, following disastrous flooding

A local helps to clear away rubble blocking a street in Schuld, Germany, following disastrous flooding

A person stands amid the debris near a damaged car after flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany

A person stands amid the debris near a damaged car after flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany

A person stands amid the debris near a damaged car after flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany

A collapsed building is pictured after a flood in Schuld, Germany

A collapsed building is pictured after a flood in Schuld, Germany

A collapsed building is pictured after a flood in Schuld, Germany

A fire truck drives through a flooded street following heavy rainfalls in Erftstadt, Germany

A fire truck drives through a flooded street following heavy rainfalls in Erftstadt, Germany

A fire truck drives through a flooded street following heavy rainfalls in Erftstadt, Germany

A view of a vehicle of the fire department (Feuerwehr) stuck in a damaged street of a residential area after flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany

A view of a vehicle of the fire department (Feuerwehr) stuck in a damaged street of a residential area after flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany

A view of a vehicle of the fire department (Feuerwehr) stuck in a damaged street of a residential area after flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany

Trucks are almost fully submerged on a flooded street following heavy rainfalls in Erftstadt, Germany

Trucks are almost fully submerged on a flooded street following heavy rainfalls in Erftstadt, Germany

Trucks are almost fully submerged on a flooded street following heavy rainfalls in Erftstadt, Germany

Police officers inspect the area as a person rides a quad bike amid the debris after flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler

Police officers inspect the area as a person rides a quad bike amid the debris after flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler

Police officers inspect the area as a person rides a quad bike amid the debris after flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler

Locals in the town of Erftstadt, Germany, help to fill sandbags to block rising floodwaters amid forecasts of more rain

Locals in the town of Erftstadt, Germany, help to fill sandbags to block rising floodwaters amid forecasts of more rain

Locals in the town of Erftstadt, Germany, help to fill sandbags to block rising floodwaters amid forecasts of more rain

A crayfish walks down the street in Schuld, Germany, after it was washed into town on floodwaters that inundated the river

A crayfish walks down the street in Schuld, Germany, after it was washed into town on floodwaters that inundated the river

A crayfish walks down the street in Schuld, Germany, after it was washed into town on floodwaters that inundated the river

The governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, who is hoping to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel as the nation’s leader after Germany’s election on September 26, said the disaster had caused immense economic damage to the country’s most densely populated state. 

‘The floods have literally pulled the ground from beneath many people’s feet,’ Gov. Armin Laschet said at a news conference. ‘They lost their houses, farms or businesses.’

Federal and state officials have pledged financial aid to the affect areas, which also includes the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, where at least 60 people died and entire villages were destroyed.

Malu Dreyer, the governor of Rhineland-Palatinate state, said the disaster showed the need to speed up efforts to curb global warming. 

She accused Laschet and Merkel’s center-right Union bloc of hindering efforts to achieve greater greenhouse gas reductions in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy and a major emitter of planet-warming gases.

‘Climate change isn’t abstract anymore. We are experiencing it up close and painfully,’ she told the Funke media group.

Steinmeier, the German president, echoed her calls for greater efforts to combat global warming.

‘Only if we decisively take up the fight against climate change will we be able to limit the extreme weather conditions we are now experiencing,’ he said.

Experts say such disasters could become more common in the future.

‘Some parts of Western Europe … received up to two months of rainfall in the space of two days. What made it worse is that the soils were already saturated by previous rainfall,’ World Meteorological Organization spokesperson Clare Nullis said.

While she said it was too soon to blame the floods and preceding heat wave on rising global temperatures, Nullis added: ‘Climate change is already increasing the frequency of extreme events. And many single events have been shown to be made worse by global warming.’

Defense Ministry spokesman Arne Collatz said the German military had deployed over 850 troops to help with flood effeorts but the number is ‘rising significantly because the need is growing.’ He said the ministry had triggered a ‘military disaster alarm.’

Italy sent a civil protection officials, firefighters and rescue dinghies to Belgium to help in the search for missing people from the devastating floods.

In the southern Dutch province of Limburg, which also has been hit hard by flooding, troops piled sandbags to strengthen a 1.1-kilometer (0.7 mile) stretch of dike along the Maas River and police helped evacuate low-lying neighborhoods.

Caretaker Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the government was officially declaring flood-hit regions a disaster area, meaning businesses and residents are eligible for compensation. Dutch King Willem-Alexander visited the region Thursday night and called the scenes ‘heart-breaking.’

Meanwhile, sustained rainfall in Switzerland has caused several rivers and lakes to burst their banks. Public broadcaster SRF reported that a flash flood swept away cars, flooded basements and destroyed small bridges in the northern villages of Schleitheim und Beggingen late Thursday.

Erik Schulz, the mayor of the hard-hit German city of Hagen, 50 kilometers (31 miles) northeast of Cologne, said there had been a wave of solidarity from other regions and ordinary citizens to help those affected by the floods.

‘We have many, many citizens saying `I can offer a place to stay, where can I go to help, where can I registered, where can I bring my shovel and bucket?’,’ he told n-tv. ‘The city is standing together and you can feel that.’

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima are examining the damage caused by the storm in Valkenburg, the Netherlands

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima are examining the damage caused by the storm in Valkenburg, the Netherlands

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima are examining the damage caused by the storm in Valkenburg, the Netherlands

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima are examining the damage caused by the storm in Valkenburg

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima are examining the damage caused by the storm in Valkenburg

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima are examining the damage caused by the storm in Valkenburg

Residents clean up houses after heavy rains had caused severe flooding in Ensival, Verviers, Belgium

Residents clean up houses after heavy rains had caused severe flooding in Ensival, Verviers, Belgium

Residents clean up houses after heavy rains had caused severe flooding in Ensival, Verviers, Belgium

Residents clean up houses after heavy rains had caused severe flooding in Ensival, Verviers, Belgium

Residents clean up houses after heavy rains had caused severe flooding in Ensival, Verviers, Belgium

Residents clean up houses after heavy rains had caused severe flooding in Ensival, Verviers, Belgium

People stand next to a partially flooded street, following heavy rainfalls, in Trooz, Belgium

People stand next to a partially flooded street, following heavy rainfalls, in Trooz, Belgium

People stand next to a partially flooded street, following heavy rainfalls, in Trooz, Belgium

A partially-destroyed house sits beside the La Vesdre river in Verviers, Belgium, after it broke its banks and swept away part of the building

A partially-destroyed house sits beside the La Vesdre river in Verviers, Belgium, after it broke its banks and swept away part of the building

A partially-destroyed house sits beside the La Vesdre river in Verviers, Belgium, after it broke its banks and swept away part of the building

Clothes are seen hanging from the partially-destroyed wardrobe of a house in Verviers, Belgium

Clothes are seen hanging from the partially-destroyed wardrobe of a house in Verviers, Belgium

Clothes are seen hanging from the partially-destroyed wardrobe of a house in Verviers, Belgium

Debris swept along by the La Vestre river is seen dumped on the bank in Verviers, Belgium, after floodwaters receded

Debris swept along by the La Vestre river is seen dumped on the bank in Verviers, Belgium, after floodwaters receded

Debris swept along by the La Vestre river is seen dumped on the bank in Verviers, Belgium, after floodwaters receded

Residents clean up after heavy rains had caused severe flooding in Ensival, Verviers, Belgium

Residents clean up after heavy rains had caused severe flooding in Ensival, Verviers, Belgium

Residents clean up after heavy rains had caused severe flooding in Ensival, Verviers, Belgium

Residents clean up after heavy rains caused severe flooding in Ensival, Verviers, Belgium

Residents clean up after heavy rains caused severe flooding in Ensival, Verviers, Belgium

Residents clean up after heavy rains caused severe flooding in Ensival, Verviers, Belgium

Residents clean up after heavy rains had caused severe flooding in Ensival

Residents clean up after heavy rains had caused severe flooding in Ensival

Residents clean up after heavy rains had caused severe flooding in Ensival

A railway carriage of the Belgium SNCB train service is derailed following heavy rains and floods in Rochefort

A railway carriage of the Belgium SNCB train service is derailed following heavy rains and floods in Rochefort

A railway carriage of the Belgium SNCB train service is derailed following heavy rains and floods in Rochefort

A Belgian army vehicle is overturned in a ditch following heavy rains and floods near the town of Rochefort

A Belgian army vehicle is overturned in a ditch following heavy rains and floods near the town of Rochefort

A Belgian army vehicle is overturned in a ditch following heavy rains and floods near the town of Rochefort

‘In less that 10 minutes, the water rose by almost a metre,’ said Isabelle Bervoets, surveying the wreckage of her restaurant in Grez-Doiceau, Belgium.

The Train river that passes through the small community is one of those that burst its banks following days of torrential rain.

At least 20 Belgians died and 19 are missing, with scores more fatalities in neighbouring Germany.

But the economic toll in the Brabant region is all too clear, along city riverfronts, blocked train tracks and drowned factories – as well as in Isabelle’s restaurant.

The ground is a sea of mud, there is a stench of sewage, bar stools are scattered everywhere, the fridge in the wine cellar is wrecked, and Isabelle’s frustration with local authorities is overflowing.

‘I’m pretty furious with the commune,’ the 53-year-old said. ‘It was some young folk who brought us sand bags. I called the town hall but they didn’t have any.’

Not far away, Amandine Bosquet is surveying the wreckage of her family home, stacking damp cardboard boxes. ‘Everything on the ground floor, we’ve lost,’ the young woman says.

– ‘Devastation’ –

Belgium’s King Philippe is due to visit the flooded region later in the day, and Prime Minister Alexander de Croos was to give a news conference.

Meanwhile the vast tide of mud and water is draining down the Train through the Brabant’s green but densely populated valleys, into the Dyle, the Meuse and on to the hard-hit Netherlands.

The region experienced flooding in 2002 and 2005.

‘But since then, we’ve seen nothing like it, and we’d never imagine it hitting us so quickly,’ says Bervoets.

Chaudfontaine, Theux, Verviers, Pepinster, Spa – dozens of cities, towns and villages have been hit.

Liege was threatened with evacuation of the town centre, but after splashing the top of its embankment, the Meuse failed to break its way into the city.

Cars lie in market squares, stacked up like damp firewood.

Scout camps were evacuated. A train derailed. Rescue helicopters and boats plucked up families and terrified pets and took them to safety.

Rescue teams have flown in from France, Italy and Austria to help the Belgian authorities.

Pepinster, a small town outside Verviers, bore the brunt of the disaster within Belgium, with the town centre turning into a river and more than a dozen houses collapsing.

‘It’s a disaster, a tsunami,’ the local mayor, Philippe Godin, told AFP.

A day after the wave rushed through there’s no electricity, no drinking water, unreliable mobile reception and, Godin adds: ‘You have to think of the people who have lost everything, their memories. It’s terrifying.’

A damaged car and rubble caused by the floods in Theux, near Liege, in Belgium

A damaged car and rubble caused by the floods in Theux, near Liege, in Belgium

A damaged car and rubble caused by the floods in Theux, near Liege, in Belgium

A damaged car lying in a river after the floods caused major damage in Theux, near Liege, Belgium

A damaged car lying in a river after the floods caused major damage in Theux, near Liege, Belgium

A damaged car lying in a river after the floods caused major damage in Theux, near Liege, Belgium

Workers attach a no entry sign on a closed waterway to protect the city of Roermond, Netherlands, following flooding

Workers attach a no entry sign on a closed waterway to protect the city of Roermond, Netherlands, following flooding

Workers attach a no entry sign on a closed waterway to protect the city of Roermond, Netherlands, following flooding 

Aerial view of the flooded camping site Jachthaven Hatenboer in Roermond, Netherlands

Aerial view of the flooded camping site Jachthaven Hatenboer in Roermond, Netherlands

Aerial view of the flooded camping site Jachthaven Hatenboer in Roermond, Netherlands

Swans swim in the high water of the Meuse river in Roermond, the Netherlands, after days of heavy rainfall

Swans swim in the high water of the Meuse river in Roermond, the Netherlands, after days of heavy rainfall

Swans swim in the high water of the Meuse river in Roermond, the Netherlands, after days of heavy rainfall

An aerial view of the river Meuse after it burst its banks in Roermond, the Netherlands, following days of heavy rainfall

An aerial view of the river Meuse after it burst its banks in Roermond, the Netherlands, following days of heavy rainfall

An aerial view of the river Meuse after it burst its banks in Roermond, the Netherlands, following days of heavy rainfall

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Heavy rainfall has caused extensive damage in Roermond, the Netherlands, but no casualties have been reported
Image taken with a drone showing sustantial flooding near the Limburg hamlet of Aasterberg, Netherlands

Image taken with a drone showing sustantial flooding near the Limburg hamlet of Aasterberg, Netherlands

Image taken with a drone showing sustantial flooding near the Limburg hamlet of Aasterberg, Netherlands

A man standing next to a destroyed car takes pictured of the devastated area after the floods caused major damage in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, western Germany

A man standing next to a destroyed car takes pictured of the devastated area after the floods caused major damage in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, western Germany

A man standing next to a destroyed car takes pictured of the devastated area after the floods caused major damage in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, western Germany

A vehicle and wreckage lie on the river, following heavy rainfalls in Verviers, Belgium, where at least 11 people have died

A vehicle and wreckage lie on the river, following heavy rainfalls in Verviers, Belgium, where at least 11 people have died

A vehicle and wreckage lie on the river, following heavy rainfalls in Verviers, Belgium, where at least 11 people have died 

Damaged vehicles are parked on the street, following heavy rainfalls in Verviers, Belgium

Damaged vehicles are parked on the street, following heavy rainfalls in Verviers, Belgium

Damaged vehicles are parked on the street, following heavy rainfalls in Verviers, Belgium

Vehicles and wreckage are seen on the street, following heavy rainfalls in Verviers, Belgium

Vehicles and wreckage are seen on the street, following heavy rainfalls in Verviers, Belgium

Vehicles and wreckage are seen on the street, following heavy rainfalls in Verviers, Belgium

Wreckage lies on the river, following heavy rainfalls in Verviers, Belgium

Wreckage lies on the river, following heavy rainfalls in Verviers, Belgium

Wreckage lies on the river, following heavy rainfalls in Verviers, Belgium

Residents clean up after heavy rains had caused severe flooding in Ensival, Verviers

Residents clean up after heavy rains had caused severe flooding in Ensival, Verviers

Residents clean up after heavy rains had caused severe flooding in Ensival, Verviers

Women remove the mud and debris from the garage following rain storms which flooded the town of Rochefort, Belgium

Women remove the mud and debris from the garage following rain storms which flooded the town of Rochefort, Belgium

Women remove the mud and debris from the garage following rain storms which flooded the town of Rochefort, Belgium

Residents clean up after heavy rains had caused severe flooding in Ensival, Verviers

Residents clean up after heavy rains had caused severe flooding in Ensival, Verviers

Residents clean up after heavy rains had caused severe flooding in Ensival, Verviers

Destruction after heavy rains had caused severe flooding in Ensival, Verviers

Destruction after heavy rains had caused severe flooding in Ensival, Verviers

Destruction after heavy rains had caused severe flooding in Ensival, Verviers

Military medics move through the town of Erftstadt, Germany, to help the victims of some of the deadliest flooding the country has seen in decades

Military medics move through the town of Erftstadt, Germany, to help the victims of some of the deadliest flooding the country has seen in decades

Military medics move through the town of Erftstadt, Germany, to help the victims of some of the deadliest flooding the country has seen in decades

Lifeguards and police divers with an inflatable boat go into a flooded home in Erftstadt, Germany, as they search for victims

Lifeguards and police divers with an inflatable boat go into a flooded home in Erftstadt, Germany, as they search for victims

Lifeguards and police divers with an inflatable boat go into a flooded home in Erftstadt, Germany, as they search for victims

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