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Floodwaters still rising in western Europe with death toll over 120

CommoditiesJul 16, 2021 03:06PM ET
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6/6 © Reuters. A street is flooded following heavy rainfalls in Erftstadt, Germany, July 16, 2021. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen 2/6

By Martin Schlicht and David Sahl

SCHULD/ERFTSTADT, Germany (Reuters) - German officials feared more deaths on Friday after "catastrophic" floods swept through western regions, demolishing streets and houses, killing more than 100 people and leaving hundreds more missing and homeless.

Communications were cut in many areas and entire communities lay in ruins after swollen rivers tore through towns and villages in the western states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate as well as parts of Belgium and the Netherlands.

After days of heavy rain, 103 people have died in Germany alone, the largest number killed in a natural disaster in the country in almost 60 years. They included 12 residents of a home for disabled people surprised by the floods during the night.

In Belgium, which has declared a day of mourning on Tuesday, officials said there were at least 20 dead and another 20 missing.

The flooding was a "catastrophe of historic dimensions," said Armin Laschet, state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia and the ruling CDU party's candidate to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel when she steps down after an election in September.

Graphic: Floods in Germany https://graphics.reuters.com/EUROPE-WEATHER/GERMANY/oakvedbdjpr/germany-floods.jpg

The devastation of the floods, attributed by meteorologists to a climate-change driven shift in the jet stream that has brought inland water that once stayed at sea, could shake up an election that has until now seen little discussion of climate.

"It is a sad certainty that such extreme events will determine our day-to-day life more and more frequently in the future," Laschet said, adding that more measures were needed to fight global warming.

Merkel held a video conference with Laschet who updated her on search and rescue efforts, a government spokeswoman said, adding that the chancellor plans to visit the affected areas soon. German public broadcaster ARD said Merkel will visit Schuld, one of the worse-hit towns, on Sunday.

Proposals by the Greens, running a distant second in polls to Merkel's conservatives, to introduce motorway speed limits to cut carbon emissions had previously drawn outrage.

Days after the European Commission unveiled plans to make Europe the "first climate-neutral continent, Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the scale and intensity of the flooding was a clear indication of climate change and demonstrated the urgent need to act.

CONCERN OVER DAMS

Achim Hueck, a fish farmer in the town of Schuld, said he had only just managed to escape. "It was rising really fast, it started from the path back here," he said, pointing to the wreckage of his business.

"There was a path, there were ponds, lots of them up there. Fishing hut, toilet facilities, everything is gone," he said.

As officials assessed the damage, the devastation appeared to have exceeded that caused by disastrous flooding in eastern Germany almost 20 years ago.

Some 114,000 households in Germany were without power on Friday and mobile phone networks had collapsed in some flooded regions, making it hard for authorities to keep track of the number of missing.

Roads in many affected areas were impassable after being washed away by the floods. Rescue crews tried to reach residents by boat or helicopter and had to communicate via walkie-talkie.

"The network has completely collapsed. The infrastructure has collapsed. Hospitals can't take anyone in. Nursing homes had to be evacuated," a spokeswoman for the regional government of Cologne said.

Authorities worried that further dams could overflow, spilling uncontrolled floods into communities below, and were trying to ease pressure by releasing more water.

Graphic: Heavy rainfall in Germany https://graphics.reuters.com/EUROPE-WEATHER/GERMANY/bdwvkoxoxvm/germany-rains.jpg

Some 4,500 people were evacuated downstream from the Steinbachtal dam in western Germany, which had been at risk of a breach overnight, and a stretch of motorway was closed.

REINFORCING DIKES

Thousands of residents in the north of Limburg province in neighbouring Netherlands were ordered to leave their homes early Friday as floodwaters peaked.

Emergency services were on high alert, and authorities were also reinforcing dikes along vulnerable stretches where floodwaters continue to rise.

Waters (NYSE:WAT) were receding in the southern city of Maastricht, where there was no flooding and in the town of Valkenburg, where damage was widespread, but no one was hurt.

France sent 40 military personnel and a helicopter to Liege in Belgium to help with the flood situation, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Twitter.

"The waters are rising more and more. It's scary," Thierry Bourgeois, 52, said in the Belgian town of Liege. "I've never seen anything like it."

In the town of Maaseik, on the Dutch border, the Meuse had risen beyond a retaining wall and was spilling past sandbags placed on top.

Several towns and villages were already submerged, including Pepinster near Liege, where around 10 houses partially or fully collapsed.

The death toll in Germany is the highest of any natural catastrophe since a deadly North Sea flood in 1962 that killed around 340 people.

Floods at the Elbe river in 2002, which at the time were billed by media "once-in-a-century floods", killed 21 people in eastern Germany and more than 100 across the wider central European region.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told magazine Spiegel the federal government aimed to provide financial support for the affected regions as quickly as possible, adding a package of measures should go to the cabinet for approval on Wednesday.

Graphic: Rising Rhine https://graphics.reuters.com/EUROPE-WEATHER/GERMANY/jbyprzgwape/chart.png

Floodwaters still rising in western Europe with death toll over 120
 

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Comments (7)
Jamie Kent
Jamie Kent Jul 16, 2021 1:51PM ET
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Europe is not a continent, it is a region of a continent; so is Asia....it is all one continent called Eurasia.
perplexed76 .
perplexed76 . Jul 16, 2021 1:30PM ET
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i  won't be in shock if DAX is flooded to new highs next week on hopes bla-bla
Shane Weddle
Shane Weddle Jul 16, 2021 12:19PM ET
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What does this have to do with commodities?
craig gross
craig gross Jul 16, 2021 12:19PM ET
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Nothing. Unless it is harvested or mined or travels through by rail or road or is consumed in the effected area.
Vlad Lozovskiy
Vlad Lozovskiy Jul 16, 2021 9:41AM ET
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Too hot?  Climate change! Too cold?  Climate change!  Flood? Climate change!
Tru Gfu
Tru Gfu Jul 16, 2021 9:41AM ET
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hey Vlad. Go read a book or go back to school. you clearly need to.
Roger Miller
Roger Miller Jul 16, 2021 9:38AM ET
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Whether or not climate change is real, it can’t be the reason for all extreme weather. We’ve always had extreme weather. The last couple examples prove it.
Tru Gfu
Tru Gfu Jul 16, 2021 9:38AM ET
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if you dont know whether climate change is real how can you conclude that one of its major conclusions is false? ate you a scientist? have you studied it? then shut your pie hole.
Jamie Kent
Jamie Kent Jul 16, 2021 9:38AM ET
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What I think he is saying (sorry if I assume incorrectly) is based on how far along we actually are right now; how much the planet's temperature has already increased due to human activity. If that amount is still low/early stages and we are having extreme weather now, is that due to global warming or not? Global warming theory predicts extreme weather as the planet gets hotter; he is stating that if we have extreme weather now it can not be due to global warming predicated on the idea that we are not yet "warmed". I'm not supporting this position, just attempting to clarify so you can construct a more useful response that shows why you disagree and even present evidence to directly disprove his idea.....and be nice about it; the best way you can be assured you will not change someone's mind is to attack or ridicule them.
Miriam Morkhul
Miriam Morkhul Jul 16, 2021 9:38AM ET
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Nasa recorded cooling years during "Climate Change". Don't you think it's weird how we are never presented with climate numbers coorelating with our green initiatives? I believe earth climate is determinated by space weather and particularly the suns activity. That's how science traditionally prognosed earth climate.
Ja Kau
Ja Kau Jul 16, 2021 9:04AM ET
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that's is a good reason to build new efficient and safe nuclear power (just what engineer country Finland is doing) + invest more money to fusion power.
New Jazenevd
New Jazenevd Jul 16, 2021 8:00AM ET
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Calling these naturally repeating floods a sign of “climate change” is a true sign of mental laziness, just to say the least.
Jamie Kent
Jamie Kent Jul 16, 2021 8:00AM ET
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Are they? I think this is an important part if the conversation that no one is addressing. There must be historical records of flooding events (or lack there of)
 
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