The Latest: Belgium govt raises flood death toll to 20

World

Cars lie in a washed out part of the Bessem district of Erftstadt, Germany, Friday, July 16, 2021. Heavy rains caused mudslides and flooding in the western part of Germany. Multiple have died and dozens are missing as severe flooding in Germany and Belgium turned streams and streets into raging, debris-filled torrents that swept away cars and toppled houses. (David Young/dpa via AP)

The Latest on deadly flooding in Europe:

BRUSSELS — Belgium’s government says the death toll from unprecedented flooding in parts of the country has risen to 20.

Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden said Friday that emergency workers were trying to locate another 20 people who remained missing.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo says Belgium will mark a day of national mourning Tuesday to reflect on “the great human loss. It will also be a moment to show solidarity, closeness and unity.”

De Croo says festivities marking the country’s national holiday on July 21 also will be toned down, saying it comes at a time “when so many people will still be in an exceptionally difficult position.”

German officials so far have reported 106 deaths in the floods that also ripped through some parts of Germany.

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BRUSSELS — Just as the European Union was preparing drastic plans costing billions of euros to contain climate change, massive clouds were gathering over Germany and other EU nations to unleash an unprecedented storm that left death and destruction in its wake.

Despite ample warnings, politicians and weather forecasters were shocked at the ferocity of the precipitation that caused flash flooding that killed at least 120 people in the lush wooded hills of Western Europe.

Many climate scientists said the link to global warming was unmistakable and the urgency to do something about it undeniable. To say that climate change caused the flooding may be a step too far, but scientists insist that it acerbates the extreme weather that has been on show from the western U.S. and Canada to Siberia to Europe’s Rhine region.

“There is a clear link between extreme precipitation occurring and climate change,” Prof. Wim Thiery of Brussels University said Friday.

For the heat records, added Prof. Stefan Rahmstorf of the University of Potsdam, “some are so extreme that they would be virtually impossible without global warming, as recently in western North America.”

Taking them all together, said Sir David King, Chair of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group, “these are casualties of the climate crisis: we will only see these extreme weather events become more frequent.”

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BRUSSELS — Belgium’s interior minister says the official death toll of flash flooding in the country’s east has gone up to 18, with more people missing.

After Germany, Belgium was the hardest hit by the rains earlier this week that caused homes to be ripped away and roads to be turned into wild rivers running through the center of several towns.

“The official confirmed death toll now stands at 18 and there are a great many missing,” Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden told VRT network Friday. The number of people missing is estimated to be at 19.

She said water levels on the Meuse river running into the Netherlands remains critical.

“There are a number of dikes on the Meuse whether it is really touch and go whether they will collapse,” she said.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Flooding is affecting other parts of Western Europe after killing at least 110 people and causing destruction in Germany and Belgium.

Emergency officials in the Netherlands are urging residents of homes close to a canal in the southern Dutch province of Limburg to evacuate swiftly after a canal dike burst.

The South Limburg emergency services said Friday that a large hole has opened in the dike alongside the Juliana Canal, which runs near the swollen Maas river.

Residents are being warned that four small settlements close to the canal “will very soon be underwater.”

Heavy rainfall in Romania on Thursday night caused “unprecedented” flooding in a small western commune that required dozens of emergency workers to rescue people from damaged homes and cars.

Alba County’s Inspectorate for Emergency Situations said in a statement Friday that no one died in Romania.

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BERLIN — Germany’s defense ministry said Friday that it is deploying a battalion to the hard-hit region of Ahrweiler.

The 371st Armored Infantry Battalion is being sent to relieve emergency crews who have been working for days to reach people trapped in the county.

Many villages in the mountainous region were heavily damaged and dozens of people died in the flash floods overnight Thursday.

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BERLIN — German officials said Friday that the economic damage from the flooding in country’s west will be immense.

More than half of the 53 counties in North Rhine-Westphalia state were affected by the floods, which damaged hundreds of buildings. At least 43 people died in the state.

North Rhine-Westphalia Gov. Armin Laschet said the floods had “literally pulled the ground from beneath many people’s feet. They lost their houses, farms or businesses.”

Federal and state officials have pledged financial aid to the affected areas of Germany, which also include the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, where at least 60 people died and entire villages were destroyed.

Several religious organizations have called for donations to help residents who lost everything in the floods.

The damage to Germany’s economy is also expected to be severe. Several factories were flooded and key infrastructure, including parts of the A1 highway from Cologne to Bonn, were swept away.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Authorities in the southern Dutch town of Venlo are evacuating a hospital due to the looming threat of flooding.

Emergency coordinators said some 200 patients will be transported from the VieCuri hospital to other hospitals Friday afternoon as a precaution “to get ahead of any possible flooding.”

The hospital is close to the banks of the swollen Maas river that flows into the Netherlands from Belgium, where flooding has caused widespread damage in and near the city of Liege. The river is called the Meuse in Belgium.

The hospital will remain closed until Monday.

Flooding in the Netherlands’ southern Limburg province has caused damage to homes and businesses in several towns and villages and sparked evacuations but has not caused any major injuries or deaths.

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BERLIN — Operators of an assisted living facility for people with disabilities in western Germany said Friday that the number of residents who died in flooding has increased to 12.

German news agency dpa quoted the chief executive of the Lebenshilfe association in Rhineland-Palatinate state saying only one of the 13 people missing from the facility had been found alive.

Matthias Mandos said a staff member managed to move several residents of the home in the town of Sinzig to the first floor as waters from the nearby Ahr river rushed into the building.

By the time the staff member tried to get others to safety, it was too late, Mandos said.

Psychologists were on hand to help traumatized employees and residents, he added.

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BERLIN — German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he is “stunned” by the “devastating effects” of the flooding across parts of western Germany that has killed more than 100 people and left hundreds missing.

Steinmeier pledged the German government’s support to the families of those killed and to cities and towns facing significant damage.

“In the hour of need, our country stands together,” Steinmeier said in a statement Friday afternoon. “It’s important that we show solidarity for those from whom the flood has taken everything.”

Calling the events a “tragedy,” Steinmeier said he had been in touch with state and local officials in the affected areas and that they used “shocking words” to describe the situations on the ground.

The crisis, he said, underscores the impact of climate change and the need for forceful action to combat it.

“Only if we decisively take up the fight against climate change will we be able to limit the extreme weather conditions we are now experiencing,” Steinmeier said.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark’s foreign minister called the devastating floods across parts of Germany and Belgium that have killed at least 100 people “utterly heartbreaking.”

Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod wrote on Twitter that “Europe must and will stand together in this tragedy.”

He said Friday that his thoughts were with the victims and their families.

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BERLIN — At least 100 people have died in devastating floods across parts of western Germany and Belgium as search and rescue operations continue for hundreds more still unaccounted for.

Authorities in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate said 50 people had died there, including at least nine residents of an assisted living facility for people with disabilities. In neighboring North Rhine-Westphalia state officials put the death toll at 43, but warned that the figure could increase.

Rescuers rushed Friday to help people trapped in their homes in the town of Erftstadt, southwest of Cologne. Regional authorities said several people had died after their houses collapsed due to the ground sinking.

Speaking to German broadcaster n-tv, county administrator Frank Rock said that authorities had no precise number yet for how many had died.

“One has to assume that under the circumstances some people didn’t manage to escape,” he said.

Authorities said late Thursday that about 1,300 people in Germany were still listed missing, but cautioned that the high figure could be due to duplication of data and difficulties reaching people because of disrupted roads and phone connections.

In a provisional tally, the Belgian death toll rose to 12, with 5 people still missing, local authorities and media reported early Friday.

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