At least 42 people have died and dozens are missing in western Germany after record rainfall led to severe flooding.
Multiple homes and buildings have collapsed in North-Rhine Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, the two worst-hit states, after multiple rivers burst their banks.
More than 100,000 homes have been left without power as a state of emergency has been declared in the region. Extreme weather warnings have been issued for more western states as the rainfall is expected to continue into the weekend.
“It's a disaster,” Malu Dreyer, the state premier of Rhineland-Palatinate said in an address to local politicians. “There are dead, missing and many who are in danger. All emergency services are on duty around the clock and are risking their own lives...we have never seen a catastrophe like this.”
Dreyer has called for more federal assistance to deal with the “immense damage”.
Emergency services are working to rescue dozens of people trapped on their roofs. Meanwhile, the army has been deployed in North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, where two firefighters are among the dead.
The heavy rainfall has caused flash floods in neighbouring Belgium, too, where at least four people are reported to have died in the southern region of Wallonia, while parts of the Netherlands and Luxembourg have also been hit by the extreme weather.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is in Washington DC to meet with US President Joe Biden, has sent her sympathies to “the relatives and of the dead and missing,” before adding that she was distraught by the scenes coming out of western Germany.
The ongoing tragedy will spark debate about the continued impact of climate change. It’s difficult to tie individual weather patterns to the climate crisis, but scientists say extreme weather events are increasing in number and intensity due to global warming.