Authorities in Germany’s Rhineland-Palatinate said Friday that 50 people have died in devastating floods in the western state, bringing the national death toll to at least 81, with dozens more missing.
“The number of dead has gone up to 50” from 28 in the badly hit region, a spokesman for the interior ministry of Rhineland-Palatinate, Timo Haungs, told AFP.
Dozens remain missing in western Germany, raising fears the death toll could rise further following the region’s worst floods in living memory.
“I fear that we will only see the full extent of the disaster in the coming days,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said late Thursday during a visit to Washington.
Merkel said her “heart goes out” to the victims of the flooding.
US President Joe Biden, speaking alongside Merkel at a joint news conference, offered his “sincere condolences and the condolences of the American people for the devastating loss of life and destruction.”
Around 15,000 members of the German emergency services, police, and army were on the ground in the worst-hit areas.
Pensioner Annemarie Mueller, 65, looking out at her flooded garden and garage from her balcony, said her town of Mayen had been completely unprepared for the destruction.
“Where did all this rain come from? It’s crazy,” she told AFP, recalling the floodwater crashing through her street during the night.
“It made such a loud noise and given how fast it came down, we thought it would break the door down.”
North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) premier Armin Laschet, who is running to succeed Merkel in September elections, canceled a party meeting in Bavaria to survey the damage in his state, Germany’s most populous.
“We will stand by the towns and people who’ve been affected,” Laschet, clad in rubber boots, told reporters in the town of Hagen.
He called for “speeding up” global efforts to fight climate change, underlining the link between global warming and extreme weather.
Because a warmer atmosphere holds more water, climate change increases the risk and intensity of flooding from extreme rainfall.