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More than 120 people died as rescue continued

Berlin (AP)

More than 120 people died in catastrophic floods in parts of West Germany and Belgium, as hundreds of unexplained or endangered search and rescue operations continued, officials said on Friday. Told.

Officials in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany said 60 people died there, including 12 residents of a living support facility for the disabled in the town of Sinzig, which was surprised by the sudden stream of water from the nearby Ah River. .. Adjacent North Rhine-Westphalia state officials have killed 43 people, but warned that this number could increase.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was “surprised” by the devastation caused by the floods and promised to help the families of the murdered people and cities and towns facing serious damage.

“Our country stands together when needed,” Steinmeier said in a statement on Friday afternoon. “It is important to show solidarity to those who have robbed everything of the flood.”

Rescue teams rushed on Friday to help those trapped in their homes in the town of Erftstadt, southwest of Cologne. Local officials said some people died after their homes collapsed when the ground beneath them suddenly sank. The aerial photographs showed what looked like a huge sinkhole.

“I managed to get 50 people out of my house last night,” said county manager Franklock. “I know 15 people who still need help.”

Locke said he had spoken to German broadcaster n-tv and said authorities did not yet know the exact number of dead people.

“Under that circumstance, we have to assume that some people managed to escape,” he said.

Authorities said late Thursday that about 1,300 people in Germany were listed as missing, many due to duplicate reports and difficulty in contacting people due to road and telephone service interruptions. Warned that it could be the cause.

Following Germany, which killed more than 100 people, Belgium was the most flooded, with houses collapsed and roads turned into rough rivers. Belgium’s Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden told the VRT network on Friday that the country’s officially confirmed death toll had increased to 18. The number of missing persons is estimated to be 19.

The water level of the Meuse River, which flows from Belgium to the Netherlands, remains important and there is a risk of some embankments collapsing, Burlinden said. Authorities in the southern Dutch town of Venlo have evacuated about 200 inpatients due to the impending threat of flooding from the river.

This week’s flash floods followed heavy rains in Western Europe, turning streams and streets into raging torrents, clearing cars and destroying homes throughout the region.

In Germany, thousands after authorities consider homes destroyed or endangered, including several villages around the Staumau Reservoir, experts say they can collapse under the weight of floods. Many people remained homeless.

German Governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet, convened an emergency cabinet meeting on Friday. Responding to the 60-year-old flood disaster is widely seen as a test of his ambition to take over German Chancellor Angela Merkel after the September 26 general elections.

Rhineland-Palatinate Governor Malu Dreyer said the disaster indicated the need to accelerate efforts to curb global warming. She hampers efforts to achieve significant greenhouse gas reductions in Germany, where Rachette and Merkel’s Central Right Union block is Europe’s largest economy and a major source of global warming gases. I accused him.

“Climate change is no longer abstract. We are experiencing it up close and painfully,” she told the Funke media group.

Steinmeier called for greater effort to combat global warming.

“We can limit the extreme weather we are currently experiencing only if we are determined to fight climate change,” he said.

Experts say such disasters can become more common due to climate change.

“In some parts of Western Europe, there were up to two months of rainfall in two days, and even worse, the soil was already saturated with previous rainfall,” said the World Meteorological Organization. Spokesman Claire Nuris said.

She said it was too early for the floods and the heat waves that preceded them to blame the rise in global temperatures, but Nuris added: And many single events have been shown to be exacerbated by global warming. “

Pentagon spokesman Arne Koratz said the Germans had more than 850 troops deployed as of Friday morning, but “the number has increased significantly due to increasing need.” Said. He said the ministry had triggered a “military disaster alert.” This is a technical move that essentially disperses decisions about using equipment for ground commanders.

Italy has sent a team of civil protection authorities, firefighters and rescue dinghys to Belgium to assist in the search for those missing in the devastating floods.

Firefighters tweeted a photo of a team working in Tilff, south of Liege, helping to evacuate the inhabitants of a house trapped in rising water.

In Limburg, also in the south of the Netherlands, which was also flooded, troops piled up sandbags to strengthen the 1.1 km (0.7 miles) embankment along the Meuse River, and police helped evacuate some areas of the lowlands. did.

Interim Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Thursday night that the government had officially declared the flood-affected areas as disaster areas.

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands visited the area on Thursday night and called the scene “painful.”

Meanwhile, due to sustained rainfall in Switzerland, several rivers and lakes broke the embankments. Flash floods reported late Thursday in the northern villages of Schleitheim and Beggingen, flooding basements and destroying small bridges.

Eric Schultz, mayor of the devastated German city of Hagen, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) northeast of Cologne, said in other parts of the world and the general public to help those affected by the devastating floods. He said there was a wave of solidarity from the citizens.

“We have a lot of citizens who say,’Where can we provide a place to stay, where can we go to help, where can we register, where can we bring shovels and buckets?'” He told n-tv. It was. “The city is standing together and you can feel it.”

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Associated Press writers Geir Moulson and Emily Schultheis in Berlin, Raf Casert in Brussels, Nicole Winfield in Rome, Angela Charlton in Paris, and Mike Corder in The Hague contributed to this report.

More than 120 people died as rescue continued

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