Deadly flooding in Europe

By Eliza Mackintosh, CNN

Updated 8:01 p.m. ET, July 16, 2021
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3:23 p.m. ET, July 16, 2021

German president to visit one of regions hit hardest by severe flooding

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks at Bellevue Palace in Berlin on July 16.
Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks at Bellevue Palace in Berlin on July 16. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/picture alliance/Getty Images)

Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will visit the Rhein-Erft-Kreis district of North Rhine-Westphalia state on Saturday after it was hit by severe flooding, a statement released by his office said Friday.

Together with Armin Laschet, the state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, he will assess the destruction of the area and meet with rescue workers to hear more about relief efforts.

2:12 p.m. ET, July 16, 2021

Belgium will hold national day of mourning for flood victims

From CNN's James Frater and Amy Cassidy

Belgium will hold a national day of mourning for flood victims on July 20, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced on Friday, saying the country stands “shoulder to shoulder” with one another.

At least 20 people have died in Belgium in floods that have also hit Germany, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

“It will be a moment to reflect on the great human loss, it will also be a moment to show solidarity, to show closeness, to show solidarity, to show friendship,” De Croo said, speaking at a news conference. “What were meant to be beautiful summer days suddenly turned into dark and extremely sad days for a high number of our fellow citizens.”

De Croo said that these “may be the most catastrophic floods our country has ever seen.”

The Belgian army is continuing with search and rescue operations with many people still stranded in their homes without electricity, along with support from the Netherlands, Luxembourg Germany, France, Italy and Austria. 

“The situation is changing by the minute, and remains extremely critical in many places,” said De Croo. “The victims are the priority, rescuing is the priority, and care. All possible means are mobilized.” 

He continued:

"The festivities of our national holiday on July 21 will also take place in a more limited format. I think that is understandable at a time when so many people will still be in great difficulty, and it also makes sense since a large part of the equipment at that time will still be fully deployed at the scene of the catastrophe.
"At a time like this it is good to see solidarity from all over the country is shown towards those affected. The services of professional aid workers, also of volunteers. We also see spontaneous actions of solidarity everywhere: providing food, clothing and other materials. 
"These are all signs that at a time like this, at a time of severe setbacks, we stand shoulder to shoulder in our country.
"I realize it is impossible to make up for the great loss, but what we can do today is help each other as best we can at this particularly difficult moment.
"The government will also do everything possible to ensure that affected families and municipalities can be supported as best as possible.”
12:43 p.m. ET, July 16, 2021

Death toll in Germany reaches 105 as hundreds remain missing

From CNN's Schams Elwazer

At least 105 people have died in Germany following torrential rainfalls that swept through the country, hundreds are still missing, authorities said Friday. The Europe-wide death toll now stands at 125.

The death toll in Rhineland-Palatinate has risen to at least 62, Ulrich Sopart, a police spokesperson in the city of Koblenz, told CNN. ''We fear that the number of fatalities could rise over the next few days.'' 

Police also say that at least 362 people have been injured. As many as 1,300 people were still unaccounted for – mainly as a result of phone lines being down – but officials now say they expect those numbers to be revised down. 

The interior ministry in Germany's most populous state populous state of North-Rhine Westphalia told CNN that the number of at least 43 deaths has not gone up from earlier Friday. Interior Ministry spokesperson Leonie Möllmann said the ministry is not providing numbers on injured or missing people at the moment. 

In Belgium, there are conflicting reports regarding the death toll, with officials giving slightly differing numbers but all agreeing that the number is likely to rise.

“Twenty victims are confirmed dead, and 19 people have not been found yet, but clearly this number could grow in the coming hours,” Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden said Friday at a news conference.

Earlier Friday, the acting mayor of Liege Christine Defraigne said at least 22 people had died and that “we are afraid to discover more and more.”

She told Sky News that “we know the coming days are full of grieving.”

12:18 p.m. ET, July 16, 2021

Dutch authorities inspect broken embankment and ask residents to leave their houses

From CNN’s Mick Krever in London

Authorities in the Netherlands are inspecting a broken embankment along the Juliana Canal in the province of Limburg, according to a safety authority spokesperson speaking with national broadcaster NOS.

The safety authorities for South Limburg have changed their guidance for residents to shelter at home, and have now asked them to leave their houses, according to a statement on their website.

The spokesperson told NOS that they would use the inspection of the embankment to determine whether an emergency reparation was needed, and if so, how to carry it out.

11:40 a.m. ET, July 16, 2021

German soccer associations pledge $3.5 million to aid flood victims

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

The German Football Association (DFB) and the German Football League (DFL) have pledged 3 million euros — or about $3.5 million — to aid floods victims in their country.

“The images of the floods and devastation, the full extent of this disaster, leave us shocked and horrified,” the DFB and DFL said in a joint statement on Friday. “Our thoughts are with the relatives of the deceased, the injured and the many people in need.” 

“The DFB and DFL intend to make a financial contribution to Flood Victim Aid – a they did after the floods in 2013 – by jointly setting up a relief fund with a volume of three million euros," they said.

“'This will not be able to alleviate the human suffering. But we hope that together we can at least provide support in some areas. We consider solidarity in this crisis situation to be self-evident," the statement continued.

12:00 p.m. ET, July 16, 2021

How climate change is fueling extreme flood events, like those devastating Europe this week

From CNN's Brandon Miller

A man rows a boat down a residential street after flooding in Angleur, Province of Liege, Belgium, on July 16.
A man rows a boat down a residential street after flooding in Angleur, Province of Liege, Belgium, on July 16. (Valentin Bianchi/AP)

Flash flooding occurs when rain falls faster than the ground can absorb it. It is “flash” because of the rapid onset; water levels can rise feet/meters in minutes. 

While there are many factors that can worsen the impacts from heavy rainfall — ground type, such as soil or concrete, and how much moisture was in the ground to being with — the most important variable is how much rain falls over a period of time, or the rainfall rate.

Human-caused climate change has already fueled extreme rain events in hurricanes and in non-tropical flash flood events like we have seen this week in Europe. This is because of a simple physical relationship — known as the Clausius-Clapeyron equation — between temperature and humidity. 

“Simply put, warmer air holds more water vapor,” said Jim Kossin, an atmospheric research scientist at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. With more water vapor in a warmer atmosphere, rainfall rates can increase and flash flooding is more likely to occur.

Drought can compound this effect. Very dry soil cannot efficiently absorb water (think of trying to wet a very dry sponge). While the rain is ultimately beneficial, if a region that has been experiencing intense drought gets hit with heavy rain, flash flooding is more likely to occur.

While the overall amount of rainfall may not change over the course of the year in any given location, more of the rain is expected to fall in shorter bursts, which would tend to increase the frequency of flooding events. This was noted by scientists with the European Environmental Agency, who said that “the projected increase in frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation over large parts of Europe may increase the probability of flash floods, which pose the highest risk of fatality.” 

This week’s flooding in Belgium and Germany provides an all-too perfect demonstration of this in action. It was only a few months ago that historically low water levels on the Rhine in Cologne, Germany, were disrupting shipping along the river, but now the river is swelled by two months of rain falling in just one day.

Scientists are increasingly able to quantify the impact that a warming climate is having on individual weather events.

A similar, though at first-take not as extreme, flooding event in Western Europe in 2016 that killed 18 in Germany, France, Romania and Belgium, was analyzed by scientists to see if climate change played a role in the floods. They found that a warmer climate made the flooding 80-90% more likely to occur than it was in the past before man-made climate change. 

10:02 a.m. ET, July 16, 2021

More than 150 rescue workers from France, Italy and Austria are in Belgium to assist with rescue efforts 

From CNN's James Frater

More than 150 rescue workers from France, Italy and Austria are in Belgium “providing emergency assistance to people affected by the catastrophic floods,” the European Commission (EC) said in a statement.

Belgium has “asked for the Civil Protection Mechanism to be activated and three countries have already provided or offered support,” European Commission spokesperson Stefan de Keersmaecker said.

"France, for example, has offered support in the form of boats and helicopters with several teams who have already arrived in Belgium,” he added. 

"Austria has also already offered several boats, and so has Italy who offered support. They have offered a helicopters boats and a team of people. Other possibilities of other teams coming from other Member States are now being studied to see whether they can join the teams in Belgium.”

De Keersmaecker said that Germany – the country worst hit by the flooding so far – has not yet requested help from other EU states, adding that the bloc is “prepared to offer our support” if Germany asks for it by activating the Civil Protection Mechanism.

9:42 a.m. ET, July 16, 2021

European Commission president says floods show urgency to act on climate change

From CNN's James Briggs in London and Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

A woman carries bags in a devastated street after the floods caused major damage in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, western Germany, on July 16.
A woman carries bags in a devastated street after the floods caused major damage in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, western Germany, on July 16. Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday that widespread flooding in north-western Europe is evidence of the need for urgency in acting on climate change. 

"It is the intensity and the length of the events that science tells us this is a clear indication of climate change and that this is something that really, really shows the urgency to act," von der Leyen said.

Speaking at a news conference in Dublin, von der Leyen spoke of the “horrible” flooding that has taken place in Western Europe where the death toll is at least 103 in Germany and 22 in Belgium.

She added that when scientists give a clear indication of climate change, this is something where we “really, really” need to act.  

“I think this is important, just in the frame that we've put forward now a roadmap how to fight climate change how to stop global warming,” von der Leyen said. 

The EU President’s comments come after Germany’s environment minister Svenja Schulze said on Thursday that “climate change has arrived in Germany.”

"These events show the force with which the consequences of climate change can affect us all, and how important it is to prepare even better for such extreme weather events in the future," Schulze said in a tweet.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Friday urged that climate action is needed to prevent disasters like this in future. ''Only if we take up the fight against climate change decisively, we will be able to prevent we will be able to keep extreme weather conditions such as those we are experiencing,'' Steinmeier said in Berlin. 

9:27 a.m. ET, July 16, 2021

Weather improving in German regions devastated by flash floods

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt

The regions impacted by the devastating flash floods in Germany will see ''much better weather in the coming days,'' the German weather service Deutscher Wetterdienst told CNN Friday.  

Weather in the worst affected flood regions North-Rhine Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate is improving, the service's spokesperson Andreas Friedrich said.

''The situation is easing, we still see showers or thunderstorms in some regions on Friday. Over the weekend we expect dry summery weather, which will prevail throughout all of next week,'' he said.

''This will give the residents of the flooding areas and the emergency services the opportunity to continue their rescue search for missing people as well as time to clear debris,'' Friedrich added.

Here's a look at the rainfall expected in the next 48 hours:

You can check the latest forecasts here.