"Flood of historical dimension" leaves more than a hundred dead in West Germany

The floods in western Germany have reached historic dimensions, with more than a hundred fatalities and a devastating panorama in a country used to fighting against the flooding of its rivers, but overcome by the climatic emergency.

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Germany confirmed 106 fatalities on Friday, a figure that both the regional authorities of the affected areas and the Government of Chancellor Angela Merkel assume will increase, since hundreds of people are still missing.

“When the waters recede, the dimension of the tragedy will become visible”The country’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, warned in an institutional message. It is time to respond from “national unity”, he added, and not to “disappoint” the expectations of those who have lost everything.

The catastrophe that has hit large areas of the “Länder” of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland Palatinate shows the need to “fight with determination” against the climate crisis, warned Steinmeier.

CLIMATE ALERT

The president’s message coincides with the majority pronouncements coming from the German political spectrum, be it Merkel’s conservative bloc, her Social Democratic partners – Steinmeier’s party, despite the fact that it formally suspended its membership when taking office – and, obviously, the Green.

They are floods “of historical magnitude”, in the words of the Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet, a conservative candidate to succeed Merkel in the chancellery after the general elections next September. His “Land”, the most populated in the country, is used to the rising of the Rhine, the Ruhr and other large rivers. But not to face the general overflow of its multiple tributaries, he warned.

“We must make North Rhine-Westphalia more prepared to respond to the climate crisis,” insisted Laschet, who is ranked first in polls in voting intention in the national elections, followed by the Greens.

“We must move towards climate neutrality”emphasized the regional leader regarding the link between the catastrophe, the climate crisis and the recent German and European initiatives to counteract its consequences.

Nobody, neither in the federal nor in the regional governments, ventures final evaluations, neither of victims nor of material damage.

The police fear that the number will continue to rise, although they are also confident that many of the disappeared can be located alive. Mobile telephony collapsed in large areas last night and that may be the reason that has prevented them from communicating until now.

DEVASTATING IMAGES

In North Rhine-Westphalia alone, with about 18 million inhabitants, a total of 25 municipalities or districts were flooded. The multiple tributaries of the great rivers are unable to absorb the water flows received by the heavy rains of recent days; at various points in the “Land” the situation is dramatic, with levees on the verge of cracking and huge landslides.

The devastating floods have caused road and rail cuts. Rail traffic in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and Rhineland-Palatinate continues to be severely affected and many routes are completely or partially interrupted.

In NRW, 600 kilometers of railways have been affected. Commuter trains in many parts either do not work or work only partially, and when road conditions allow, buses are offered as an alternative.

There have also been cuts on highways and roads. At least two motorway routes are interrupted, one of them the A1, which connects the north of the country with the west now hit by floods.

During this Friday, details of the extent of the catastrophe were known, such as the collapse of several houses in Erftstadt-Blessem, near Cologne, which caused several deaths, or the death of twelve people with disabilities who could not be rescued from the residence in which they lived.

Local media show shocking images of the state In which many towns in the affected areas have been left: houses torn from their foundations, broken bridges, vehicles piled up in the streets full of rubble, mud and large landslides caused by the violence of the waters.

Meteorological instability is not limited to the west of the country, since the forecasting services of the capital, Berlin, predict that heavy rains and winds will arrive in the city on Friday afternoon, although in principle it is not expected that with the violence with which they shook the western “Länder”.

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