At least 187 people have died in western Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, after record rainfall caused rivers to burst their banks.
A priest from the German Church in London has urged Christians to pray for “those who are still missing” after the devastating floods.
“More than 1,000 people are reported missing right now. So, pray for those who are missing, pray for those families who suffer from death right now and have lost somebody, even those who just lost their houses and the furniture. Pray for those people that they are not left alone,” Fr Andreas Blum told Premier News.
Residents of several regions were caught unaware by the deluge, which swept them away or left them homeless in the blink of an eye. In the devastated Ahrweiler district of Rhineland-Palatinate around 1,300 people were unaccounted for.
“Everything was under water within 15 minutes. Our flat, our office, our neighbours’ houses, everywhere was under water,” Agron Berischa, a 21-year-old decorator from Bad Neuenahr in Rhineland-Palatinate, told AFP.
Streets and houses under water, overturned cars and uprooted trees could be seen everywhere the floodwaters had passed, while some districts were cut off from the outside world.
“I fear that we will only see the full extent of the disaster in the coming days,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said from Washington, where she met with President Joe Biden.
While rescue operations are continuing, it has been confirmed that 187 people have died and thousands have been left homeless.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed to do “everything” to find those still missing but has said she is expecting “many” more deaths.
Fr Blum, who was born in Cologne, one of the most affected areas, said he had never seen floods on this scale.
“Usually there is a little bit of flooding every spring or sometimes in the autumn. But not as bad as we experience it now. The area around Cologne can be quite hilly and if there are little streams, you know, they can grow very quickly. That seems to have happened with all the rain in the past few days, and especially last night, that all those streams really gained force and within minutes, some houses were torn apart, cellars flooded, and landslides, even buried houses and people right now.”
Many monasteries and churches have opened their doors to host many homeless families.
“There are quite a few Benedictine monasteries in the area, and they are usually built on top of hills. So, they are not affected as badly as villages in the valley, so they opened their doors and welcomed people who had to be evacuated from homes and villages.” Fr Blum said.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was “stunned” by the devastation and pledged support to the families of those killed and to cities and towns facing significant damage.
“In the hour of need, our country stands together,” he said in a statement. “It’s important that we show solidarity for those from whom the flood has taken everything.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Joe Biden expressed their sorrow over the loss of life during a news conference at the White House late on Thursday.