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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.

Rhineland-Palatinate, Kordel. Photo: Sebastian Schmitt/picture alliance via Getty Images
Rhineland-Palatinate, Schuld. Photo: Boris Roessler/picture alliance via Getty Images
Rhineland-Palatinate, Esch. Photo: Thomas Frey/picture alliance via Getty Images
A man walks through floods in Schuld near Bad Neuenahr, western Germany. Photo: Bernd Lauter/AFP/ via Getty Images
Rhineland-Palatinate, Schuld. Photo: Thomas Frey/picture alliance via Getty Images

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

Go deeper

Updated Sep 11, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Harris, Bush preach unity at Flight 93 memorial, 20 years on from attacks

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a 9/11 commemoration at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris joined former President George W. Bush at a ceremony on Saturday to honor the lives lost 20 years ago on United Airlines Flight 93.

Driving the news: The vice president and the 43rd president devoted much of their remarks to remembering the unity that brought Americans together after the 9/11 attacks.

GOP Rep. Gonzalez retires in face of Trump-backed primary

Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R) Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R) announced his retirement on Thursday, declining to run against a Trump-backed primary challenger in 2022.

Why it matters: Gonzalez has suffered politically since siding with House Democrats to impeach the 45th president after the Capitol riot.

Swing voters oppose Texas abortion law

Protesters at a rally at the Texas State Capitol. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

All 10 swing voters in Axios’ latest focus groups — including those who described themselves as "pro-life" — said they oppose Texas' new anti-abortion law.

Why it matters: If their responses reflect larger patterns in U.S. society, this could hurt Republicans with women and independents in next year's midterm elections. The swing voters cited overreach, invasion of privacy and concerns about frivolous lawsuits jamming up the courts.