Dozens of people were feared dead and many more were missing as the worst flooding in decades caused houses to collapse in Germany, Belgium and other parts of Western Europe following days of heavy rain that swelled rivers and overloaded sewage systems.
Over 40 people were reported dead and more than 50 were missing in western Germany, where nearly hundred of houses collapsed, six of them in the small village of Schuld.
People were left trapped in their homes across the region on Thursday, many of them waiting to be rescued on roofs as severe flooding turned streets into rivers, swept away cars and crushed houses. Hundreds of thousands of households were cut off from power and water supplies as well as telecommunications across the flooded area. In one town, the torrent ripped off a piece of the railway, officials said.
Two firefighters died while rescuing people encircled by the floods, according to authorities in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The army was deployed to help rescue services to evacuate hospitals and homes with the help of helicopters and armored amphibious vehicles.
The rainfall in the region was subsiding on Thursday but infrastructure remained severely affected and authorities feared that more houses, weakened by the floods, could collapse. Dozens of citizens were seeking help from emergency departments, according to Philipp Heller, deputy chief of the fire department in the western town of Blankenheim.