At least seven people have died and 50 more are missing after torrential rain triggered flash flooding which swept away homes and cars in Germany.
Four people died in Ahrweiler county, south of Dortmund, amid heavy rains overnight Wednesday and into Thursday morning, police said, while six homes collapsed in the village of Schuld leaving up to 50 missing.
It comes after one firefighter drowned while trying to rescue people in the town of Altena on Wednesday while another collapsed and died during rescue operations at a power plant in Werdohl-Elverlingsen.
An 82-year-old man also died after falling in his flooded basement in the city of Wuppertal, which was among the hardest-hit.
Germany was not the only country affected, with at least one person dead and another missing in eastern Belgium and a care home evacuated in the Netherlands – though no casualties were reported.
And images revealed towns and villages in northern Switzerland were also flooded after rivers burst their banks, though there were no reports of casualties.
At least seven people have died and up to 50 are missing after torrential downpours in western Germany over the last three days triggered flash flooding which swept away homes and cars (pictured, flooding in Hagen, Germany)
Streets were turned into rivers that ripped up roads with the city of Hagen, south of Dortmund, particularly hard-hit (pictured)
A villager from Balken, just north of Cologne, looks at floodwaters in the Wupper river after torrential downpours overnight caused it to burst its banks
Floodwaters submerge a street crossing in the town of Hagen, south of Dortmund, after heavy rains in Germany overnight
Police in the western city of Koblenz said Thursday that about 50 were trapped on the roofs of their houses awaiting rescue.
The full extent of the damage in the region was still unclear after many villages were cut off by floodwater and landslides that made roads impassable.
Videos posted on social media showed cars floating down streets and houses partly collapsed in some places.
Authorities have declared an emergency in the region after days of heavy rainfall that also affected large parts of western and central Germany, as well as neighboring countries, causing widespread damage.
One man was missing in the eastern town of Joehstadt after disappearing while trying to secure his property from rising waters, authorities said.
Rail connections were suspended in large parts of North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state.
Governor Armin Laschet, who is running to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor in this fall’s German election, was expected to visit the flood-hit city of Hagen later Thursday.
German weather service DWD predicted the rainfall would ease Thursday.
Some towns in eastern Belgium have seen water levels rise to unprecedented levels and had their centers turned into gushing rivers.
Major highways were inundated and in the south and east of the nation, the railway service said all traffic was stopped, adding that ‘alternative transport is highly unlikely.’
In eastern Eupen, on the German border, one man was reported dead after he was swept away by a torrent, a local governor told RTBf network.
In Liege, the main city in eastern Belgium, the Meuse river could break its banks by early afternoon and spill into the heart of the city. Police warned the citizens to take precautionary measures.
Authorities in the southern Dutch town of Valkenburg, close to the German and Belgian borders, evacuated a care home and a hospice overnight amid flooding that turned the tourist town’s main street into a river, Dutch media reported.
The Dutch government sent some 70 troops to the southern province of Limburg late Wednesday to help with tasks including transporting evacuees and filling sandbags as rivers burst their banks.
There were no reports of injuries linked to flooding in the Netherlands.
Unusually intense rains have also inundated a swath of northeast France this week, downing trees and forcing the closure of dozens of roads.
A train route to Luxembourg was disrupted, and firefighters evacuated dozens of people from homes near the Luxembourg and German border and in the Marne region, according to local broadcaster France Bleu.
The equivalent of two months of rain has fallen on some areas in the last one or two days, according to the French national weather service.
With the ground already saturated, the service forecast more downpours Thursday and issued flood warnings for 10 regions.