170 now dead from Western European floods

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The death toll Saturday from flooding in Western Europe rose to 170, local authorities said.

In Germany at least 143 people have been reported dead, while the death toll in neighboring Belgium rose to 27.

More people are feared dead in Germany’s Ahrweiler district, where the death toll stood at 90. Authorities there have also received reports of 618 people injured.

About 1,300 people in the district remained missing Saturday as damaged phone networks have impeded efforts to reach them.

The Belgium interior ministry on Saturday reported 27 people dead and 103 missing or unreachable due to flooding in the Wallonia region.

Fatalities have mounted since flash floods from the heaviest rain in a century swept through Western Europe from Wednesday into Thursday, causing buildings to collapse in western and southern Germany, and also affecting neighboring countries.

Since then, the majority of deaths have been in Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate regions, as rescue work has continued across the affected areas.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited the Rhein-Erft district of North Rhine Westphalia later Saturday, then joined state premier Armin Laschet in a visit to Erfstadt where the flooding has washed away numerous houses and cars.

In Belgium, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited towns impacted by the floods.

Severe flash floods have also affected neighboring Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland, with thousands forced to evacuate, but no deaths have been reported in those countries so far, officials said.

The European Flood Awareness System issued extreme flood warning earlier in the week. Hannah Cloke, a hydrologist who set up and advises EFAS, told Politico on Thursday the high death toll represented “a monumental failure of the system.”

The German weather service DWD said it had passed the warning onto local authorities who were responsible for evacuations.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told the Guardian “this is a consequence of climate change,” and that the country “must prepare much better in the future.”

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