At least 19 people have died and 70 more are missing after torrential rain triggered flash flooding which swept away homes and cars in Germany while devastating parts of Belgium and the Netherlands.
Four people have been confirmed dead in the town of Schuld, around 20 miles south of Bonn, overnight as rain swept away six homes, while another four were found dead in flooded cellars across North Rhine-Westphalia state.
Two firefighters are also among the dead, including one who drowned trying to rescue people in the town of Altena on Wednesday and another who died during rescue operations at a power plant in Werdohl-Elverlingsen.
Another eight people were killed in the county of Euskirchen in connection with the flooding, emergency services said, with rescue operations still ongoing.
One person also died in the town of Rheinbach, around 20 miles south of Cologne, according to the Bild newspaper, though the exact circumstances of their death was unclear.
Police said up to 70 more people are missing, most of them residents who were sheltering in their homes before they were swept away as roads turned into raging torrents.
A belt of cities, towns and villages running from the east of Dortmund to south of Bonn in Germany’s most-populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia were all badly hit after three months’ of rain fell in just three days – starting Tuesday and continuing into Thursday.
Germany was not the only country affected, with at least one dead and another missing in the Liege region of Belgium while people in the Limburg region of the Netherlands – including residents of a care home – had to be evacuated due to flooding, though no casualties were reported.
GERMANY: The village of Schuld (pictured) was partially destroyed by flooding overnight that swept away six homes killing at least four people – though dozens more have been reported missing
GERMANY: Schuld was badly damaged after the Ahr river which flows around it burst its banks, sending torrents of water through the streets which then swept away houses and cars
BELGIUM: A woman wades through a flooded street in Liege after heavy rains hit the area and caused widespread flooding
BELGIUM: People evacuate their flooded homes in the city of Liege, Belgium, after torrential rains left their street underwater
NETHERLANDS: The fire brigade evacuate people from their homes in South Limburg, the Netherlands, after towns were flooded amid torrential rain
A car is seen covered in rubble in the German town of Hagen, south of Dortmund, after it was hit by flooding overnight
A woman cleans a shop entrance after flooding in the town of Bad Muenstereifel, south of the city of Bonn and located along the banks of the Erft river
A damaged road after flooding in the town of Bad Muenstereifel after the Erft river broke its banks
The Erft river is seen flowing underneath a damaged bridge in the town of Bad Muenstereifel, Germany
A damaged road and a car after flooding in Bad Muenstereifel, Germany
A damaged bridge after flooding in Hagen, Germany
Meanwhile French meteorologists put out flood warnings for the east of the country on Thursday, and images revealed towns and villages in northern Switzerland were also flooded after rivers burst their banks.
Police in the western German 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.’
A woman looks at debris brought by the flood next to the Ahr river, following heavy rainfalls in Schuld, Germany
A woman wades through floodwaters in the town of Hagen after torrential rain inundated rural areas in western Germany
A man looks at damaged cars in a flooded street in Mery, in the Belgian province of Liege, after heavy flooding overnight
Mud and water fill the ground floor of a house flooded by rainwater in Mery, Province of Liege, Belgium
A man walks by damaged cars in a flooded street in Mery, Province of Liege, Belgium
A car sits balanced on a stone wall in a flooded street in Mery, Province of Liege, Belgium
Cars are wedged underneath a shipping container flipped on its side after flooding in Eifel, Germany
Cars and trucks are scattered along a street in the Eifel region of western Germany after severe flooding overnight
People look a at a destroyed car and other damages caused by the floods of the Volme river in Priorei, near Hagen
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
An intersection in the German town of Hagen is seen completely underwater after torrential rain caused flooding
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.
Cars drive in a flooded area near the De Dem water buffer in Hoensbroek, Limburg, the Netherlands
Residents put down sandbags to block water near the De Dem water buffer in Hoensbroek, Limburg, the Netherlands
A wheel loader of Germany’s technical relief agency THW pulls a stranded van out of floodwaters in Hagen, Germany
A man and woman stand on the stoop of their home as they look at the flood waters following heavy rains in Holland
Evacuated residents of a care home sit inside a bus as they are taken to a reception location, in the municipality of Valkenburg aan de Geul, South Limburg region, the Netherlands
An aerial view taken with a drone of the Allaine river which burst its banks following heavy rainfall in the last few days, Courtemaiche, canton of Jura, Switzerland
The first water overflows at the Reuss River in Lucerne, Switzerland, on Thursday