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Rescuers are vying to prevent more deaths from European floods; the death toll reaches 125, hundreds missing

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BERLIN (AP) In a flooded German city, the ground collapsed under family houses. In another, flood waters engulfed an assisted living center, killing 12.

Rescue workers across Germany and Belgium rushed on Friday to prevent more deaths from the continent’s worst flooding in years as the disaster claimed dozens more lives and the search continued for hundreds of missing people. The death toll was more than 125.

Driven by days of heavy rain, flood waters also left thousands of Germans homeless as their homes were destroyed or considered endangered, and elected officials began to worry about the prolonged economic effects of lost homes and businesses.

Elsewhere in Europe, dams on swollen rivers were in danger of collapsing, and crews competed to strengthen flood barriers.

Sixty-three people were killed in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, including 12 residents of an assisted living facility for the disabled in the town of Sinzig who were surprised by a sudden flood of water from the nearby Ahr River , said the authorities.

In the neighboring state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the death toll was 43, but officials warned it could rise.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was stunned by the devastation and promised support for the families of those killed and for cities and towns facing heavy damage.

In time of need, our country stands together, Steinmeier said in a statement. Importers it is important that we show solidarity with those from whom the flood has taken everything.

A shocking rescue effort unfolded in the German city of Erftstadt, southwest of Cologne, where people were trapped when the ground left the country and their homes collapsed.

Fifty people were rescued from their homes, county administrator Frank Rock told German broadcaster n-tv. Aerial photographs showed what appeared to be a massive landslide in a gravel pit on the edge of cities.

One has to assume that in these circumstances some people failed to escape, Rock said.

Authorities warned that large numbers of missing people could stem from duplicate reports and difficulty reaching people due to closed roads and interruption of telephone service.

After Germany, where the death toll was 106, Belgium was hardest hit. The country had confirmed the deaths of 20 people, with 20 others still missing, Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden told the VRT network on Friday.

Several slopes on the Meuse River running from Belgium to the Netherlands were in danger of collapsing, Verlinden said. Authorities in the southern Dutch city of Venlo evacuated 200 hospital patients due to the threat of the river.

The governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, who hopes to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel as the country’s leader after the September 26 German election, said the disaster had caused great economic damage to the country’s most populous state.

Floods have literally dragged the earth from below many people, Governor Armin Laschet told a news conference. “They lost their homes, farms or businesses.

Federal and state officials have promised financial assistance to the affected areas.

Malu Dreyer, governor of the Rhineland-Palatinate state, said the disaster showed the need to speed up efforts to curb global warming. She blamed the center-right bloc of Laschet and Merkel for thwarting efforts to achieve greater greenhouse gas reductions in Germany, Europe’s largest economy and a major global emitter of global warming gases.

Climate change is no longer abstract. We are experiencing it up close and in pain, she told the Funke media group.

Steinmeier, the German president, reiterated his calls for greater efforts to combat global warming.

Only if we resolutely take on the fight against climate change will we be able to limit the extreme weather conditions we are experiencing now, he said.

Experts say such disasters may become more common in the future.

Some parts of Western Europe… received up to two months of rainfall in the space of two days. What made it worse is that the lands were already saturated by previous rainfall, said World Meteorological Organization spokeswoman Clare Nullis.

While she said it was too early to blame the floods and the preliminary heat wave on rising global temperatures, Nullis added: Climate change is already increasing the frequency of extreme events. And many single events have been shown to be exacerbated by global warming.

The German military had deployed over 850 troops to help with the flood effort and the need for help is growing, said Defense Ministry spokesman Arne Collatz. He said the ministry had triggered a military disaster alert.

Italy sent civil defense officials, firefighters and lifeboats to Belgium to help search for missing people.

In the southern Dutch province of Limburg, which has also been hit hard by flooding, troops piled up sandbags to strengthen a 1.1-kilometer (0.7-mile) dam stretch along the Maas River, and police helped evacuate the lower neighborhoods. .

The caretaker Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the government was formally declaring flooded regions disaster areas, making businesses and residents legal for compensation. Dutch King Willem-Alexander visited the region on Thursday night and called the scenes shocking.

Meanwhile, heavy rains in Switzerland caused several rivers and lakes to burst their banks. Public broadcaster SRF reported that a rapid flood drove cars, flooded basements and destroyed small bridges late Thursday in the northern villages of Schleitheim und Beggingen.

Erik Schulz, mayor of the hit city of Hagen, 50 kilometers (31 miles) northeast of Cologne, said a wave of other regions and ordinary citizens offered help.

We have many, many citizens who say I can offer a place to stay. Where can I go to help? … Where can I bring my shovel and bucket? i tha ai n-tv. The city is standing together and you can feel it. ”

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