After fractures appeared in the dam holding back the neighboring Steinbach reservoir, the communities of Euskirchen, Germany, were relocated, with 4,500 people being told to vacate their residences.
A massive amount of water was discharged into the lake after heavy rains that wreaked havoc on the area. Experts have cautioned that the dam is on the verge of collapsing.
“Some parts of Western Europe … received up to two months of rainfall in the space of two days. What made it worse is that the soils were already saturated by previous rainfall,” said Clare Nullis, spokesperson of the World Meteorological Organization.
Trees and debris from damaged buildings have clogged the drainage system, although the dam was built to release surplus water. Huge fractures occurred in the dirt strengthening the front of the dam on Friday, July 16, indicating the pressure.
After rounds of severe rains led rivers to breach their banks, causing catastrophic floods that wiped away buildings and streets, the death toll in western and central Europe soared to over 125 on Friday, July 16, with more than 1,000 still unaccounted. And when the floodwaters start to subside, the death toll may keep rising.
The North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate areas in Germany were among the worst places hit by the severe rain, with 106 fatalities, the Associated Press reported.
Financial support has been committed by federal and state authorities to the affected regions, including Rhineland-Palatinate state, where whole villages have been devastated.
According to the Associated Press, German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her sadness at the news and expressed her condolences to the families of those dead or lost in the floods.
One German official frankly stated that the cost is undoubtedly in the ‘billions’ due to the magnitude of the destruction and human misery.
When wet ground collapsed into an adjacent gravel pit in Blessem, Germany, near Cologne, it killed an unidentified number of victims as well as taking away people’s property. Following the fall, helicopters, hovered overhead searching for anybody who could be saved.
In the German town of Erftstadt, southwest of Cologne, rescuers attempted to free individuals stuck in their houses. Many residents died as their homes fell because the land beneath them unexpectedly crumbled, according to local officials.
After Germany, Belgium was the country most severely devastated by the floods, which destroyed homes. The total death toll in the country has risen to 20, with another 20 individuals still unaccounted, Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden told the VRT network on Friday, July 16. The Belgian government has received assistance from rescue crews from France, Italy, and Austria.
Heavy rains have also forced numerous rivers and lakes to overflow their borders in Switzerland. A sudden flood carried away automobiles, flooded foundations, and wrecked tiny bridges in the northern towns of Schleitheim and Beggingen late Thursday, July 15, according to public broadcaster SRF.