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.
Angela Merkel arrives in Schuld
Chancellor Angela Merkel has arrived in Schuld to witness the devastation caused by the floods.
Pope Francis offers prayer to flood victims
At his first public appearance to the faithful in St. Peter’s Square after major surgery, Pope Francis offered a prayer to the flood victims in western Europe and for support of the “efforts of all to help those who suffered great damage.”
“I express my closeness to the populations of Germany, Belgium and Holland, hit by catastrophic flooding,” he said. “May the Lord welcome the deceased and comfort the family members.”
One more confirmed dead in Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia state
One more person has been confirmed dead in Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia state, bringing the regional death toll to 46 police said.
North Rhine-Westphalia is Germany’s most populous state and has been hit hard by the floods.
Four of those who died were firefighters.
ICYMI: German military aids were deployed to assist with the search and rescue mission
Watch as German military aids assist with the search and rescue mission in flood-stricken Germany:
In Pictures: Debris left behind by floods sits way above street level
A photograph shared on social media shows debris left behind by the floods in western Europe piled high above street level.
Merkel pledges short-term relief for victims of ‘terrifying’ floods
Speaking after visiting the devasted town of Schuld, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “The German language can barely describe the devastation that’s taken place.”
She added that a short-term relief programme would be launched by the government on Wednesday.
“We are by your side,” Merkel told residents of the small town Adenau in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate.
German businesses affected by the floods could get 10,000 euros
Germany’s Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told the weekly newspaper Bild am Sonntag that there could be a 10,000 euro short-term payment for businesses affected by the impact of the floods as well as the Covid-19 pandemic.
Germany must fight climate change, Merkel says
Chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed to fight climate change “through policy that pays more regard to nature and the climate”.
After witnessing the devastation caused by the floods, Merkel said: “Germany is a strong country and we will stand up to this force of nature in the short term — but also in the medium and long term, through policy that pays more regard to nature and the climate than we did in recent years. That will be necessary too.”
She added that, despite the financial cost, we must fight faster “in the battle against climate change,” pointing to policies already set in motion by Germany and the European Union to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
She added: “One flood isn’t the example of climate change, but if we look at the loss events of recent years, decades, then they are simply more frequent than they were previously — so we must make a great effort.”
'More clear communication’ needed to tackle future crises, scientist says
Professor Hannah Cloke OBE, Professor of Hydrology at the University of Reading, said the aftermath of the flood is a “testament to a failure of action” and that “more clear communication” is needed to prevent future disasters.
She said: “Any loss of life or severe damage to buildings and communities is tragic. It is our duty as a scientific and flood forecasting community to recognise this immediately, and to work together to support vulnerable people, right now and for the future.
“The European Flood Awareness System, which is operated by the Copernicus Emergency Management Service, we set up specifically for these kind of events.
“I am glad that it has been able to accurately forecast events and pass information to authorities in good time, which has undoubtedly aided the difficult response.
“But every life lost, and to a lesser extent, every car seen floating down a street, is testament to a failure of action. Buildings cannot move, but people can, and things like cars can be put out of harm’s way.
“I believe more clear communication, not less, is likely to be part of the answer to improving the whole system of flood preparedness in the future, particularly in a world where climate change is making events more extreme.”
Even ‘most-developed countries’ unprepared for climate crisis, scientist says
Dr Liz Stephens, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Science at the University of Reading gave her thoughts on the floods.
She said: “The flooding in Europe is a sobering demonstration of how even the most developed countries are not prepared for the impacts of climate change.
“Intense summer rainfall events are expected to occur more frequently under climate change, and national and local governments need to wake up to the danger and make sure that appropriate measures are taken to avoid the unacceptable number of fatalities that have been reported from this event.
“The floods in London earlier this week provide a warning that we are not immune to these kinds of flood impacts in the UK and should learn our own lessons from this disaster.”
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies