More than 20 die in floods in western Europe, dozens missing (UPDATED)
At least 19 people have died in Germany and dozens were missing on Thursday as record rainfall in western Europe caused rivers to burst their banks, swept away homes and inundated cellars.
Eight people died in the Euskirchen region south of the city of Bonn, the authorities said. In Belgium, two men died due to the torrential rain and a 15-year-old girl was missing after being swept away by a swollen river.
Four people died and 70 were missing around the wine-growing hub of Ahrweiler, in Rhineland-Palatinate state, police said, after the Ahr river that flows into the Rhine burst its banks and brought down half a dozen houses.
Hundreds of soldiers were helping police with the rescue efforts, using tanks to clear roads of landslides and fallen trees, while helicopters winched those stranded on rooftops to safety.
"I've never experienced a catastrophe where the river burst its banks in such a short space of time," a 63-year-old man and fled the flood told SWR television. The man’s name was not given.
In Belgium, around 10 houses collapsed in Pepinster after the river Vesdre flooded the eastern town and residents were evacuated from more than 1,000 homes.
The rain has also caused severe disruption to public transport, with high-speed Thalys train services to Germany cancelled. Traffic on the river Meuse is also suspended as the major Belgian waterway threatens to breach its banks.
Downstream in the Netherlands, flooding rivers damaged many houses in the southern province of Limburg, where several care homes were evacuated.
In addition to the eight who died in the Euskirchen region, another seven people died elsewhere in North Rhine-Westphalia, several of them in flooded cellars, as well as two firefighters.
Further down the Rhine river, the heaviest rainfall ever measured over 24 hours caused flooding in cities including Cologne and Hagen, while in Leverkusen 400 people had to be evacuated from a hospital.
More heavy rain was due in southwestern Germany, on the upper reaches of the German Rhine, later on Thursday and Friday, the German Weather Service said.