Destructive Flooding in Western Europe Inflicts Death and Damage
The world experiences damaging flooding every year during the monsoon season. This year too, at least 190 people have died, while hundreds more remain missing after catastrophic flooding hit a large part of Western Europe.
Tens of thousands of people are unable to return to their homes and many more are left without access to potable water and power. Caused by unprecedented rainfall, the severe floods hit parts of western Germany, before moving to Belgium and the Netherlands to wreak havoc.
According to the weather department, the extreme rainfall resulted in a slow-moving area of low pressure that allowed a conveyor belt of warm and moist air to fuel powerful thunderstorms and bring heavy, long-lasting rainfall.
Environment minister Svenja Schulze said in a tweet,
Climate change has arrived in Germany. The events show with what force the consequences of climate change can affect us all, and how important it is for us to adjust to extreme weather events in the future.
Many areas had to be evacuated as the floods approached. Across the southern Netherlands, several areas still remain evacuated after River Maas rose to dangerous levels, which haven’t been seen in over a century.
In Venlo, a city sitting on the Maas, 10,000 people had to leave their homes. The readily rising water levels forced volunteers and the military to work faster and harder to prepare the city for the flooding.
— Ronaldo Wilbrink (@WXRonaldo) July 17, 2021
The devastating flooding over the weekend left a trail of death, destruction, mud and chaos in Germany. Described as the “worst natural disaster” in a century, entire towns, trains lines and roads were swept away, while over 150 people have lost their lives.
The western state of Rhine-Palatinate is the worst-hit region, where 110 people died in this disaster. German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed to provide swift financial aid after visiting the town of Schuld, which is most affected by the record rainfall and floods that have killed hundreds of people in Germany alone.
The National Crisis Center of Belgium said that the situation was slowly improving throughout the country and that the areas hit by the floods are “out of imminent danger.”
Moreover, the search for victims is going on and the biggest concern presently is a lack of potable water in some of the worst-affected areas. According to the official data, at least 31 people have lost their lives in Belgium.
Southeastern Germany and Austria also witnessed new flooding over the weekend, though not as devastating as the other regions.
As many as 1,300 people were still listed as missing on July 15 in areas near the Germany-Belgium border, which has experienced the worst of the damage. On July 16, a dam broke in the town of Wassenberg near Cologne, forcing about 700 inhabitants to evacuate.
As rescue efforts continued to track missing persons, a district of Bavaria, southern Germany, was hit by flash floods that killed at least one person on July 18.
About 110 people were killed in the worst-hit Ahrweiler district south of Cologne. The police have said that more bodies are expected to be found there as the floodwaters recede.
The European floods, which began on July 14, have mainly hit the German states of Rhineland Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia as well as parts of Belgium. Most likely, the flooding could have been triggered by climate change, which scientists have long warned will lead to heavier downpours.
Netherlands’ emergency services said that the situation had somewhat stabilized in the southern part of Limburg province, where tens of thousands were evacuated in recent days, however, the northern part was still on high alert. The country has only recounted property damage from the flooding so far, with no dead or missing people.
The death and destruction due to flooding in Western Europe have been heart-wrenching. It can only be hoped that humankind will mend its ways to tackle climate change and will implement safety protocols and management to deal with such a natural crisis henceforth.