At Least 40 Dead After Severe Flooding Sweeps Through Parts of Europe

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More than 30 people have died and dozens were missing Thursday in Germany and Belgium as heavy flooding turned streams and streets into raging torrents that swept away cars and caused houses to collapse.

Recent storms across parts of western Europe made rivers and reservoirs burst their banks, triggering flash floods overnight after the saturated soil couldn’t absorb any more water.

“I grieve for those who have lost their lives in this disaster,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a visit to Washington, expressing shock at the scope of the flooding. “We still don’t know the number. But it will be many.”

She pledged that everything would be done to find those still missing, adding: “‘Heavy rain and flooding’ doesn’t capture what happened.”

Authorities in the western German region of Euskirchen reported eight deaths from the floods. Rescue operations were hampered by phone and internet outages in parts of the county, southwest of Cologne.

Police said 18 people died in Ahrweiler county, south of Euskirchen. Up to 70 people were reported missing after several homes collapsed in the village of Schuld in the Eifel, a volcanic region of rolling hills and small valleys.

Many villages were reduced to rubble as old brick and timber houses couldn’t withstand the sudden rush of water, often carrying trees and other debris as it gushed through narrow streets.

Dozens of people had to be rescued from the roofs of their houses with inflatable boats and helicopters. Germany deployed hundreds of soldiers to assist.

“There are people dead, there are people missing, there are many who are still in danger,” the governor of Rhineland-Palatinate state, Malu Dreyer, told the regional parliament. “We have never seen such a disaster. It’s really devastating.”

In Belgium, the Vesdre River overflowed its banks and sent water churning through the streets of Pepinster, near Liege.

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