Deadly flooding in Europe

By Eliza Mackintosh, CNN

Updated 8:01 p.m. ET, July 16, 2021
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8:54 a.m. ET, July 16, 2021

"Climate change has arrived in Germany": What's fueling the floods

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

The extreme rainfall was the result of a slow-moving area of low pressure, which allowed a conveyor belt of warm and moist air to fuel powerful thunderstorms and bring heavy, long-lasting rainfall, according to the German weather service.

Intense rainfall rates are becoming more common in the warming climate, as warmer air can hold more water vapor that is available to fall as rain.

"Climate change has arrived in Germany," environment minister Svenja Schulze tweeted Thursday, adding that "the events show with what force the consequences of climate change can affect us all, and how important it is for us to adjust to extreme weather events in the future."

Hannah Cloke, a professor of hydrology at the UK's University of Reading told CNN that "these kind of high-energy, sudden summer torrents of rain are exactly what we expect in our rapidly heating climate."

8:54 a.m. ET, July 16, 2021

Liège mayor calls for caution as flood water levels stabilize

From CNN's Xiaofei Xu and Barbara Wojazer

Illustration shows floods at the Monsin dam bridge in Liege after heavy rainfall on Thursday.
Illustration shows floods at the Monsin dam bridge in Liege after heavy rainfall on Thursday. Eric Lalmand/Belga Mag/AFP/Getty Images

The situation in Liège, Belgium remains fragile, the city's acting mayor said on Friday, even as water levels in the Meuse river began to stabilize.

Christine Defraigne called for caution in an interview with Belgian television LN24, saying that “we must not claim victory yet and say that everything is under control, as the level of alert remains high.”

Rescue missions are still ongoing with teams “fully mobilised," Defraigne said, adding that she was “fearing other tragedies.” 

“While we can think we have overcome this, the question of what we will discover when the water recedes still remains."

8:53 a.m. ET, July 16, 2021

Belgian officials say they weren't equipped for scale of flooding, as death toll climbs

From CNN's Joseph Ataman in Pepinster

Rescue workers look down from a balcony as floodwaters run down a main street in Pepinster, Belgium, on Thursday.
Rescue workers look down from a balcony as floodwaters run down a main street in Pepinster, Belgium, on Thursday. (Olivier Matthys/AP)

Belgian authorities were lacking key equipment for flooding of this scale, Elio Di Rupo, President of Belgium's Wallonia region, said Friday after record rainfall caused rivers to burst their banks. 

At least 14 people have died in Belgium, according to Eric Beirin, the spokesperson for the Wallonia region’s vice president, bringing the total death toll from the flooding in western Europe to 107. 

"Considering the scale of the catastrophe, neither the army nor the civil defense forces had material to hand," Di Rupo told Belgian broadcaster RTBF. 

He highlighted that the army needs small water craft "two or three times more powerful."

"That we were not able to reach stranded people -- last night I say again, there were hundreds of people that we couldn’t physically reach -- that’s a lesson that we must learn from," he said. 

Only a few millimeters of rain is expected Friday in parts of southern Belgium and the region is seeing an overall decrease in the intensity of rainfall, according to the government of Belgium’s Flanders region. 

As much as 80 millimeters of rain fell on parts of Belgium Thursday, per the Flanders government.

6:37 a.m. ET, July 16, 2021

In pictures: Deadly flooding in western Europe

The staggering scale of the damage and loss from severe flooding in western Europe is difficult to imagine. Here's a sense of what it looks like -- from aerial photos showing rivers that burst their banks, ripping apart homes, to people wading through knee-high flood waters, surveying the wreckage.  

People look at a railway crossing that was destroyed by the flooding in Priorei, Germany.
People look at a railway crossing that was destroyed by the flooding in Priorei, Germany. (Sascha Schuermann/AFP/Getty Images)

Evacuees ride a bus in Valkenburg aan de Geul, Netherlands.
Evacuees ride a bus in Valkenburg aan de Geul, Netherlands. (Sem van der Wal/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

People walk over floodwaters in Stansstad, Switzerland.
People walk over floodwaters in Stansstad, Switzerland. (Urs Flueerler/EPA-EFE-Shutterstock)

Cars are covered by debris in Hagen, Germany.
Cars are covered by debris in Hagen, Germany. (Martin Meissner/AP)

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6:44 a.m. ET, July 16, 2021

Scramble to account for missing people amid power outages

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

At least 165,000 people are currently without power in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, authorities told CNN, which has made it difficult to account for missing people.

''[In] some places phone lines are still down and reception is difficult. We do hope that people will get in touch with a relative, work colleague or friend to let them know they are fine," Ulrich Sopart, a police spokesman in the city of Koblenz, told CNN, adding that "overall we are concerned that a large number of people remains missing."

Power supply facilities belonging to Westnetz utility company, include local substations and transformer stations, are also affected, spokeswoman Sarah Schaffers told CNN. 

For safety reasons, the facilities have been shut down.

The Eifel region, the Rhine-Sieg district on the left bank of the Rhine, the Rhine-Bergisch district and parts of the Bergisches Land region are especially affected.

''All available colleagues from Westnetz are on duty to check systems and restore supply if possible," Schaffers said. 

8:53 a.m. ET, July 16, 2021

Netherlands evacuees allowed to return home

From CNN's Mick Krever

A business owner is pumping water out of his premises, following the damage inflicted by the flooding Geul river in Valkenburg on July 16.
A business owner is pumping water out of his premises, following the damage inflicted by the flooding Geul river in Valkenburg on July 16. Sem van der Wal/ANP/Getty Images

Many residents in the Netherlands’ Limburg province have been allowed to return home Friday morning, after tens of thousands were told to evacuate overnight as the Meuse River -- or “Maas” in Dutch -- approached its high-water mark.

All residents in South Limburg, except for those from Valkenburg, have been told that they can return home, that region's safety board said Friday.

At the same time, many residents in North Limburg were still being advised to leave their homes as of 7 a.m. local time. "If you stay in your home, we cannot guarantee that we can offer you help when needed," that region's safety board said on Twitter.

The Meuse's high-water mark was reached in Maastricht in the 3 a.m., according to the Dutch Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management. The peak was somewhat lower than expected, at 3,300 cubic meters per second, compared to the predicted 3,700.

8:53 a.m. ET, July 16, 2021

A look at Germany's hardest hit regions

Rhein-Erft District/BezRegKoeln/Twitter
Rhein-Erft District/BezRegKoeln/Twitter

Germany's three westernmost states, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland, have been the worst affected by the devastating flooding.

Cologne, in North Rhine-Westphalia state, recorded 154 millimeters (6 inches) of rainfall in only 24 hours ending Thursday morning, which is nearly double its monthly average for July of 87 millimeters.

Locally heavier downpours resulted in extreme flash flooding. In Reifferscheid, in the Ahrweiler district of Rhineland-Palatinate, an incredible 207 millimeters (8.1 inches) of rain fell in only nine hours, according to the European Severe Weather Database.

On Thursday, German weather service DWD predicted that the "worst of the torrential rainfall is over," although more heavy rain is expected in southwestern Germany on Friday.

6:21 a.m. ET, July 16, 2021

What we know about the deadly flooding in Europe

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt, Schams Elwazer, Barbara Wojazer and Sharon Braithwaite

The Ahr river floats past destroyed houses in Insul, Germany, on Thursday.
The Ahr river floats past destroyed houses in Insul, Germany, on Thursday. (Michael Probst/AP)

More than 100 people have died in Western Europe and hundreds more are missing following catastrophic flooding in the region, caused by what experts described as the heaviest rainfall in a century.

Shocking scenes of the devastation show entire German villages underwater, with cars wedged in between collapsed buildings and debris. The flooding has left 93 people dead in Germany, authorities said Friday, as large-scale rescue efforts continue amidst rising water, landslides and power outages.

In the hard-hit district of Ahrweiler, in Germany's southwest Rhineland-Palatinate state, the number of deaths is on the rise, authorities told CNN Friday.

"There is no end in sight just yet," Ulrich Sopart, a police spokesman in the city of Koblenz, told CNN. There are currently 1,300 people unaccounted for Ahrweiler, he said, adding that authorities are hopeful that they will be able to revise down that number as the rescue operation continues and phone lines are restored.

North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland state have been the worst affected by what authorities have called the heaviest rainfall in a century. Extreme rainfall totals were observed Wednesday into Thursday morning across much of western Germany and the Benelux region of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

Widespread swaths of these regions saw 24-hour rainfall totals between 100 and 150 millimeters (3.9-5.9 inches), which represent more than a month's worth of rainfall in this region, according to CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller.

In neighboring Belgium, 12 people have died, authorities said Friday, with five people in the southern region of Wallonia still unaccounted for.

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