Germany was soaked under some of the most intense flooding seen in Western Europe in over a century last week. The Prime Minister, Angela Merkel, has promised both financial aid to survivors and swift action on climate change to address the immediate and long-term problems posed by the flooding.
At least 190 lives were lost due to the widespread flooding, which saw the Rhine jump its banks and soak the lowlands with raging floodwaters. Merkel told reporters that “It is a surreal and ghostly situation; I would almost say that the German language is struggling to find the words to describe the devastation that has been caused.”
The flooding, caused by constant rainfall in Western Europe for days leading up to the disaster. A mixture of cold air fronts and warm, wet air from the south combined over Europe, leading to intense rainfall that pushed the Rhine past its banks. The raging floodwaters destroyed buildings and homes, and the destruction also affected parts of Belgium, France, Switzerland, Austria, and the Netherlands.
Belgium has also seen at least 30 lives lost in the disaster. According to authorities, over 160 Belgian citizens are missing, leading many to assume the death toll will rise are search and rescue efforts continue.
The flooding is the worst in Europe in living memory, with many Europeans seeing it as a wake-up call regarding climate change. “Germany is a strong country, and we will stand up to this force of nature in the short term — but also in the medium and long term, through policy that pays more regard to nature and the climate than we did in recent years. That will be necessary too,” Merkel insisted when speaking with reporters.
Authorities in the region are currently primarily engaged with the cleanup effort. Numerous vehicles are trapped in mud and floodwaters, while many cities are still completely blocked by the high waters. Floodwater is especially dangerous to navigate due to the health risks it poses, making cleanup efforts complicated and time-consuming.
Germany has promised long-term support for victims of the flood. Authorities have pointed out that many citizens in the region have lost their homes and all of their possessions, displacing them entirely and leaving their futures uncertain. The disaster has taken place ahead of Germany’s September elections, and experts there believe that the candidates with the strongest stance against climate change will be the ones to come out ahead.