Germany floods: 'Catastrophe' detailed by correspondent
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A disabled care home in Rhineland-Palatinate, run by Lebenshilfe, was flooded after water overflowed from the Ahr river. State authorities initially reported the death toll as nine, but German media say it has risen to 12.
The victims, who have severe disabilities and live at the care home, were tragically trapped as the flood water rushed in.
A spokesman for Lebenshilfe said the ground floor of the building filled up with water quickly.
The water flooded with such force, residents did not have a chance to escape.
The residents on the upper floors of the building were kept locked inside for several hours.
They have since been moved to hotels, or went to stay with family.
Stefan Möller, managing director of the facility, told the German newspaper Bild the victims were being monitored, but the water rose too quickly for them to be evacuated.
He said on Friday morning: “The residents were not alone. We had a nightwatchman in the neighbouring house.
“At the request of the fire brigade, the building was to be evacuated.
“But when the employee came over [to evacuate], the tidal wave came – he couldn’t get out and couldn’t help.
“It’s terrible. Our employees are traumatised, but they still help as best they can.
“They are also in the process of looking after the other residents in Neuwied.”
On Wednesday, a nearby retirement home with around 100 resident also was evacuated after being flooded.
The flooding in Western Europe has killed at least 120 people in Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
Officials in Rhineland-Palatinate reported that 63 fatalities have been confirmed.
North Rhine-Westphalia has recorded 43 deaths, although authorities say this could increase.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking via video in Washington DC, USA, sent her condolences on Thursday.
She said Thursday was a day “characterised by fear, by despair, by suffering”, and added: “I fear that we will only see the full extent of the disaster in the coming days.”
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo also declared July 20 would be a national day of mourning.
He said: “We are still waiting for the final toll, but this could be the most catastrophic flooding our country has ever seen.”
The floods are the most deadly in recent German history, with 2016’s European floods causing the deaths of 11 Germans.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the floods were evidence that more needed to be done to combat climate change.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen echoed experts and blamed clime change for the devastation.
She said: “It is the intensity and the length of the events that science tells us this is a clear indication of climate change and that this is something that really, really shows the urgency to act.”
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