Berlin (CNN)Catastrophic flooding in western Europe has killed more than 120 people, with hundreds more missing, authorities said Friday, as large-scale rescue efforts continue amidst rising water, landslides and power outages.
The German states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland have been the worst affected by the record rainfall, which authorities have called the heaviest in a century.
”In some areas we have not seen as much rainfall in 100 years,” a spokesperson for the German weather service DWD said, adding that in those regions, they have “seen more than double the amount of rainfall,” causing flooding and structures to collapse.
Large swaths of western Germany saw 24-hour rainfall totals between 100 and 150 millimeters (3.9-5.9 inches), which represent more than a month’s worth of rainfall in this region, according to CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller.
Cologne, in North Rhine-Westphalia, recorded 154 millimeters (6 inches) of rainfall in the 24 hours to Thursday morning, which is nearly double its monthly average for July of 87 millimeters.
Heavier localized downpours resulted in extreme flash flooding. In Reifferscheid, in the Ahrweiler district, an incredible 207 millimeters (8.1 inches) of rain fell in only nine hours, according to the European Severe Weather Database.
The intense deluges were the result of a slow-moving area of low pressure, which allowed a conveyor belt of warm and moist air to fuel powerful thunderstorms and heavy, long-lasting rain, according to the German weather service.Photos: Deadly flooding in western Europe
Extreme rainfall is becoming more common in the warming climate, as warmer air can hold more water vapor that is available to fall as rain.
“Climate change has arrived in Germany,” Environment Minister Svenja Schulze tweeted Thursday, adding that “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.”
Hannah Cloke, a professor of hydrology at the UK’s University of Reading, told CNN that “these kinds of high-energy, sudden summer torrents of rain are exactly what we expect in our rapidly heating climate.”
On Thursday, the DWD predicted that the “worst of the torrential rainfall is over,” although more heavy rain is expected in southwestern Germany on Friday.Residents use rubber rafts to evacuate after the Meuse River broke its banks during heavy flooding in Liege, Belgium, on Thursday.
In neighboring Belgium, at least 22 people have died, authorities said Friday. Some 21,000 people are also without electricity in the southern region of Wallonia, according to energy supplier Ores, who said that the situation across the power network remains “extremely complicated.” Some 300 distribution points are flooded and impossible to reach, it said.
On Friday afternoon, a Dutch embankment in the province of South Limburg broke, with local authorities warning residents to urgently take action.
After a large hole was found in a dike alongside the Juliana Canal, the regional safety authority warned residents to urgently close all windows and doors, saying that there was not enough time to evacuate.
“Residents in Bunde, Voulwames, Brommelen and Geulle must close windows and doors as quickly as possible and move to a safe floor of their house,” the safety authority’s statement read.
“There is no more time to leave the house,” it said, adding: “This area will be under water.”
Meanwhile, a hospital in the Dutch town of Venray, in North Limburg, was being evacuated on Friday afternoon. Around 200 patients would be transferred to other hospitals, the regional safety authority said.
Source :CNN: Nadine Schmidt reported from Berlin, Barbara Wojazer reported from Paris and Sharon Braithwaite and Vasco Cotovio reported in London. Kara Fox, James Frater and Melissa Gray contributed to this report.