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Germany-Belgium floods: Merkel says German language doesn’t have words for ‘surreal’ destruction

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Ella Glover
Sunday 18 July 2021 17:15 BST
Angela Merkel visits flood-hit area in Germany

The death toll across Germany and Belgium topped 180 on Sunday after rescue workers dug deeper into debris left by receding waters.

Some 155 people have been confirmed dead in Germany while 27 have died in Belgium.

After a visit to the flood-ravaged Rhineland-Palatinate region on Sunday, Chancellor Angela Merkel called the floods “terrifying” and pledged short-term relief to the victims, which she said would be launched on Wednesday.

“It is shocking - I can almost say that the German language doesn’t have words for the destruction that’s been wreaked,” she said.

Germany’s finance minister Olaf Scholz has said that officials must begin setting up a rebuilding programme which is likely to cost billions.

He said he would propose a package of immediate aid, totalling at least 300 million euros (£257 million), at a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Some 65 people were evacuated from their homes in Germany‘s Berchtesgaden area after the Ache River swelled. At least one person was killed.

The floods have begun to spill over into Austria, where a flash flood swept through the town of Hallein late Saturday, although no casualties have been reported.

The military has been deployed to help aid the search and rescue mission and was seen using armoured vehicles to clear away cars and trucks overwhelmed by the floodwaters in Erftstadt, a town southwest of Cologne where the ground in a neighbourhood gave way.


Good morning

Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s liveblog on the Germany-Belgium floods. Follow here for the latest news and updates.

Ella Glover18 July 2021 09:53

Death toll surpasses 180

The death toll in Belgium and Germany has now surpassed 180.

The number of people confirmed dead in the worst-hit Rhineland-Palatinate region is 110, with fears it may continue to rise. In the North Rhine-Westphalia area, 45 people have been confirmed dead, including four firefighters.

The death toll in Belgium remains at 27.

Ella Glover18 July 2021 09:56

Angela Merkel to visit devastated region

Chancellor Angela Merkel is today expected to visit Schuld, a devasted area in the worst-hit Rhineland-Palatinate region.

Merkel has called the floods a “tragedy” and pledged support from the federal government for Germany’s stricken municipalities.

Her visit comes after President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited on Saturday, urging continued support.

Joe Biden and Angela Merkel pledge support to flood-striken areas
Ella Glover18 July 2021 10:02

Floods spill over into Austria

A flash flood swept through the nearby Austrian town of Hallein late Saturday, but there were no reports of casualties.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Twitter that heavy rain and storms were causing serious damage in several parts of Austria.


Ella Glover18 July 2021 10:05

At least 300 million euros to be proposed for immediate aid

A package of immediate aid, totalling at least 300 million euros (£257 million), will be proposed at a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, German finance minister Olaf Scholz has said.

He added that officials must start setting up a rebuilding programme which, from experience with previous flooding, will cost billions of euros.


Ella Glover18 July 2021 10:20

Election candidate apologises for laughing gaffe during flood visit

A candidate to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel has apologised for laughing in the background of a video of President Steinmeier while visiting a flood-hit region.

Admin Laschet received criticism after the video surfaced on Saturday showing the front-runner laughing as the president made a statement.

In a tweet, Laschet said: “The fate of those affected, which we heard about in many conversations, is important to us,” he wrote. “So I regret all the more the impression that arose from a conversational situation. That was inappropriate and I am sorry.”

Ella Glover18 July 2021 10:50

Link between extreme weather and global warming is unmistakable, climate scientists say

Climate scientists say the link between extreme weather and global warming is unmistakable and the urgency to do something about climate change undeniable.

Scientists can’t yet say for sure whether climate change caused the flooding, but they insist that it certainly exacerbates the extreme weather that has been on show around the world.

Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission said yesterday the floods were a “clear indication” of climate change.

“It is the intensity and the length of the events that science tells us this is a clear indication of climate change and that this is something that really, really shows the urgency to act,” she said.

My colleague has the full story below:

Germany floods ‘clear indication’ of climate change, EU head warns

Deadly flooding comes after EU announces sweeping plan to cut carbon footprint in half

Additional reporting by AP

Ella Glover18 July 2021 11:10

At least one dead as floods hit southern Germany

Flash floods hit southern Germany on Sunday after the Ache River swelled in Berchtesgaden, a town in the Bavarian Alps on the Austrian border.

Some 65 people were evacuated from their homes in and at least one person was killed.

Ella Glover18 July 2021 11:35

ICYMI: Germany and Belgium floods map

This map shows the main areas affected by the floods and why:

Germany and Belgium floods map: Which areas are affected and why?

Several countries have been hit with heavy flooding in recent days

Ella Glover18 July 2021 11:58

Flood water was “like a tsunami” survivors recall

Speaking to The Associated Press, survivors of the floods in Belgium said the water was “like a tsunami” and “came all of a sudden” late in the evening.

Paul and Madeline Brasseur were forced to seek safety upstairs with their two sons, eventually ending up on the roof of their building with 15 others.

“We started to see buildings collapsing, people on the rooftops, buildings collapsing, falling into the water,” Mr Brasseur said.

The family was eventually saved by “the father of my sons’ best friend,” after a holding back from sending their sons into a rescue boat sent to rescue the children had begun taking on water.

Ella Glover18 July 2021 12:20

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