More than 1,300 people were unaccounted for late Thursday after fierce floods ripped through several countries Western Europe.
Record rainfall sent floodwaters bursting from overwhelmed rivers into streets, leveling buildings and washing away cars in its brutal currents.
Germany and Belgium appeared to be the hardest hit countries, with heavy flooding also hitting the Netherlands and elsewhere, reports said.
At least 60 people are dead, including nine residents of an assisted living facility and two firefighters involved in rescue operations, The Associated Press reported.
“I grieve for those who have lost their lives in this disaster,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a White House visit. “I fear the full extent of this tragedy will only be seen in the coming days.”
There were 20 people reported dead in the city of Cologne alone, news source DPA stated.
Residents of the German town of Schuld were left assessing damage as local infrastructure was ravaged after days of downpours.
“I saw the pizza store getting flooded, half an hour later the bakery was flooded,” Kalus Radermacher told Reuters. “There is a camping ground up there, so caravans and camper vans came floating past, gas tanks. We were powerless against it. It came so fast, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Rescuers in inflatable boats helped people stranded on the roofs of their homes, the AP stated.
The hard-hit district of Ahrweiler, where the Ahr River flooded its banks, reported 1,300 people unaccounted for. Some 18 people were confirmed dead in the district alone, officials said.
Resident Michael Ahrend said he was totally surprised, even though he expected water “would come in here” one day.
“This isn’t a war – it’s simply nature hitting out,” Ahrend told Reuters. “Finally, we should start paying attention to it.”
With Post wires