Updated Jul 16, 2021 - Energy & Environment

At least 69 dead as parts of Europe see 2 months of rain in 2 days

An aerial shot of a train partially submerged under flooding.
Rhineland-Palatinate, Kordel. Photo: Sebastian Schmitt/picture alliance via Getty Images

At least 69 people have died and 1,300 are assumed missing in Germany and Belgium after heavy rainfall caused water to overtake streets, sweeping up cars and bringing down buildings, the New York Times reports.

Driving the news: Storms across parts of western Europe caused rivers and reservoirs to burst through their banks, triggering flash floods overnight.

  • At least 30 people died in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, while 28 deaths were reported in Rhineland-Palatinate state, per AP. Belgian media reported at least 11 deaths in the country.
  • Rescuers encountered blocked roads along with phone and internet outages. Some villages were reduced to rubble as water gushing through the streets took down trees and debris. Others remain unreachable.
  • Two firefighters died in rescue operations in North-Rhine Westphalia, per AP.
  • Hundreds of soldiers are helping with rescue efforts, employing tanks to clear roads and remove fallen trees.

What they're saying: "I grieve for those who have lost their lives in this disaster," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, according to AP. "We still don’t know the number. But it will be many."

  • "There are people dead, there are people missing, there are many who are still in danger,” the governor of Rhineland-Palatinate state, Malu Dreyer, told the regional parliament, per AP. "We have never seen such a disaster. It’s really devastating."

Between the lines: Climate change is increasing extreme water events worldwide — both the excess and absence of rain, Axios' Andrew Freedman notes.

  • In many areas of Europe and the U.S., for example, the odds of extreme precipitation events and flooding have sharply escalated, with warming air and ocean temperatures providing more moisture to fuel storms.

The big picture: The equivalent of two months of rain has fallen on some areas over the last one to two days, per AP citing the French national weather service.

What to watch: More heavy rain is expected in southwestern Germany overnight Thursday and into Friday.

An image showing the town of Rhineland-Palatinate, Kordel flooded.
Rhineland-Palatinate, Kordel. Photo: Sebastian Schmitt/picture alliance via Getty Images
Image showing destruction in Rhineland-Palatinate, Schuld from flooding.
Rhineland-Palatinate, Schuld. Photo: Boris Roessler/picture alliance via Getty Images
Image showing water rushing through Rhineland-Palatinate, Esch.
Rhineland-Palatinate, Esch. Photo: Thomas Frey/picture alliance via Getty Images
A man walks through the floods towards destroyed houses in Schuld near Bad Neuenahr, western Germany
A man walks through floods in Schuld near Bad Neuenahr, western Germany. Photo: Bernd Lauter/AFP/ via Getty Images
A destroyed car lies in the Ahr river in the village in the district of Ahrweiler.
Rhineland-Palatinate, Schuld. Photo: Thomas Frey/picture alliance via Getty Images

Editor's note: This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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