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19 dead, several missing in Germany floods

Germany and neighbouring countries have seen heavy rainfall in recent days

EUROPE-WEATHER/GERMANY A woman wades across floodwater as she goes out shopping following heavy rainfalls in Gross-Vernich, Germany | Reuters

At least 19 people have died and several people are missing in Germany after heavy flooding turned streams and streets into raging torrents, sweeping away cars and causing some buildings to collapse.

Police in the western city of Koblenz said in a tweet Thursday that four people had died in Ahrweiler county, and about 50 were trapped on the roofs of their houses awaiting rescue.

Authorities in the western county of Euskirchen said Thursday that eight deaths had been reported there in connection with the floods.

"Many people have been reported missing to us," police added.

Sustained rain had also triggered the collapse of six houses in the town of Adenau, with 30 people so far unaccounted for, police said.

Germany and neighbouring countries have seen heavy rainfall in recent days, causing widespread damage.

A fireman drowned Wednesday during rescue work in the western German town of Altena, and another man was missing in the eastern town of Joehstadt after disappearing while trying to secure his property from rising waters, authorities said. 

Rescue efforts in parts of southwest Cologne were hampered as phone and internet connections were down. Several villages in the region were cut off as roadways were inundated. Several villages below the Steinbachtal reservoir were evacuated fearing the dam there could also break. Relentless rains worsened flooding in eastern Belgium-- one person was reported drowned and another missing.

The city of Hagen declared a state of emergency after the Volme river burst its banks. The flooding is likely to impact elections in September to choose a successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel. The weather extremities could tip the scales in favour of the Greens, who have so far failed to dominate the scene agenda with global warming awareness.   

The city's crisis team has warned those who lived near water bodies in Hagen to move to higher grounds immediately, public broadcaster WDR reported. "We see this kind of situation only in winter ordinarily," Bernd Mehlig, an environment official from North Rhine-Westphalia, told WDR.  

Soldiers were sent to clear areas of the Hagen and one district of Duesseldorf was evacuated. 

In Liege, the main city in eastern Belgium, the Meuse river could break its banks by early afternoon and spill into the heart of the city. Police warned the citizens to take precautionary measures. Authorities in the southern Dutch town of Valkenburg, close to the German and Belgian borders, evacuated a care home and a hospice overnight amid flooding that turned the tourist town's main street into a river, Dutch media reported.

Unusually intense rains have also inundated a swath of northeast France this week, downing trees and forcing the closure of dozens of roads. A train route to Luxembourg was disrupted, and firefighters evacuated dozens of people from homes near the Luxembourg and German border and in the Marne region, according to local broadcaster France Bleu.

The equivalent of two months of rain has fallen on some areas in the last one or two days, according to the French national weather service. With the ground already saturated, the service forecast more downpours Thursday and issued flood warnings for 10 regions.

--With PTI inputs

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