The death toll from catastrophic floods in Germany rose to 183 on Sunday as rescue workers looked for corpses amid receding waters and fresh storms pounded mountainous areas farther south.
Overnight, heavy rain soaked sections of the German states of Bavaria and Saxony, and flooding extended to Austria and Switzerland.
In Germany alone, at least 156 people have died due to once-in-a-century summer rains that caused rivers and dams to collapse. In Belgium, 27 people have been killed thus far.
On Saturday night, parts of Bavaria have declared disaster zones as flash floods slammed the southern state’s border with Austria. In the Berchtesgadener district, at least one person perished.
While new regions prepared for flooding, others were already recovering from previous floods. On Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was scheduled to visit the village of Schuld in Rhineland Palatinate, where most homes were carried away by the overflowing Ahr river.
Some of the most damaged were the picture-perfect towns along the Ahr, with stone bridges and classic timber frame buildings. According to authorities, at least 110 individuals died in the state.
In adjacent North Rhine Westfalia, 45 people were murdered. The death toll is anticipated to increase further as rescue personnel search through flooded homes for corpses. Teams of sniffer dogs have been cleaning heaps of trash that have clogged roadways.
The power of the water ripped the facade off buildings, hung vehicles in trees, and crumpled roads and bridges. Many people died when the floodwaters transformed streets into rivers or drowned while shoveling floodwater out of their basements.
On Sunday, German military soldiers and fire firefighters were still attempting to pull vehicles and trucks off a wet roadway. Rescue personnel were unsure if the individuals had had time to exit their cars before the floodwaters surged.
Thousands of people needed to be rescued from roofs. “The street was like a rushing creek,” said Williams Horst, 71, who was stuck overnight with his 86-year-old landlady and her caretaker on Wednesday. They were all helicoptered out in harnesses, hauled up from the house’s backyard in waters up to their chests.
Floodwaters rushed through the Austrian town of Hallen, near Salzburg, sweeping up automobiles and debris in their path, although no casualties were recorded as of Sunday morning. Residents were warned to stay away from basements. Flooding shut off several regions of Germany’s Saxon Switzerland, a mountainous national park along the Elbe, according to ZDF television.
The receding floods in areas of Germany have allowed for first estimates of the extent of the devastation. Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper to provide the cabinet with a plan for at least 300 million euros in emergency help this week.