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Tuesday July 23, 2024

Parts of northern Europe clean up after floods

By AFP
May 19, 2024
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Saarland State premier Anke Rehlinger wade through water as they visit flood stricken town of Kleinblittersdorf. — AFP/File
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Saarland State premier Anke Rehlinger wade through water as they visit flood stricken town of Kleinblittersdorf. — AFP/File

KLEINBLITTERSDORF: German emergency workers on Saturday started a major clean-up after heavy rains triggered massive flooding, while parts of Belgium, the Netherlands and France were also affected.

The southwestern German state of Saarland was the worst-hit region after a long downpour on Friday flooded buildings, left streets deep underwater and sparked evacuations, with boats carrying stranded residents to safety.

Officials said it was the worst flooding in the area for nearly 30 years. The capital Saarbruecken was badly affected while dykes were breached in several areas, causing power to fail or be shut down as a precaution.

No deaths were reported but at least one person was injured.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz, visiting a village in the affected area, said that “we can see here what violence nature can cause and how much we have to constantly prepare for such events”. He praised the work of emergency services in helping local residents and promised help for those affected by the disaster.

Saarland state premier Anke Rehlinger said that authorities still did not have a complete picture of the damage but it was expected to be “considerable”. The heavy rains had eased early on Saturday, however, and a severe weather warning for the area was lifted. There was also flooding in the German states of Rheinland-Palatinate, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Hesse.

About 850 workers from the federal relief agency were dispatched to Saarland to help tackle the floods, joining several thousand people in the state, many of them volunteers, the interior ministry said. Water rescue teams and extra fire-fighting units were sent in from other states, it said. Germany has faced worsening floods in recent years.

In 2021, the regions of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia were hit by catastrophic floods that killed more than 180 people.

In Belgium, the province of Liege was hit by severe flooding overnight into Saturday, with authorities receiving hundreds of requests for assistance and 150 firefighters deployed, governor Herve Jamar said. The main help provided by emergency services was pumping water out of flooded buildings, he said.\ In Les Fourons, northeast Belgium, the water was up to chest height in some houses, according to mayor Joris Gaens, quoted by Belga news agency. “These are the worst floods in the history of Les Fourons,” he added. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo was due to visit on Saturday afternoon.

In the Dutch province of Limburg, two campsites were evacuated early on Saturday as they were threatened by rising floodwaters, officials said.

Meanwhile, the Moselle area in France’s northeast, which borders Saarland, was placed on flood alert with officials saying it received the equivalent of a month’s rainfall in less than 24 hours.

More than 1,000 firefighters were deployed to respond to the emergency but officials on Saturday said the situation was improving.

Experts say climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of floods.

German climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf said the floods in Saarland highlighted inadequate steps taken so far to fight global warming.

“People who do not take the warnings of climate researchers seriously for decades, and elect politicians who delay climate protection, should not be surprised about floods,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.