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Catastrophic Floods Sweep Through Western Europe, 1000s Missing as Death Toll Rises to 125

Catastrophic Floods Sweep Through Western Europe, 1000s Missing as Death Toll Rises to 125

Flash flooding in Germany and Belgium has killed more than 125 people, authorities said Friday, adding that hundreds were missing. The deadly flooding has followed several weeks of wild swings in the weather, a mix of high temperatures, dryness, and severe rainfall. Weather experts say such severe weather typically happens once in a generation but is now more frequent largely as a result of worsening climate change.

Officials said Friday that at least 105 people have died in Germany and about 20 were dead in Belgium as water spills over from rain-soaked rivers and consumes roadways, homes, and other structures.

The World Meteorological Organization said some parts of Western Europe have 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,” WMO spokesperson Clare Nullis said. She said it was too soon to blame the floods and preceding heatwave on rising global temperatures but 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.”

Fueled by days of heavy rain, the floodwaters also left thousands of Germans homeless after their dwellings were destroyed or deemed to be at risk, and elected officials began to worry about the lingering economic effects from lost homes and businesses. Rescue workers across Germany and Belgium rushed Friday to prevent more deaths from some of the Continent’s worst flooding in years as the number of dead surpassed 125 and the search went on for hundreds of missing people. Sixty-three people perished in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, 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.

Elsewhere in Europe, dikes on swollen rivers were at risk of collapsing, and crews raced to reinforce flood barriers. After Germany, where the death toll stood at 106, Belgium was the hardest hit. The country confirmed the deaths of 20 people, with another 20 still missing, Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden told the VRT network Friday.

The German military deployed over 850 troops to help with flood efforts, and the need for help was growing, Defense Ministry spokesman Arne Collatz said. He said the ministry had triggered a “military disaster alarm.”

[This is a continuing and developing story, please check back for updates]

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