Emergency workers in western German and Belgium have rushed to rescue hundreds of people in danger or unaccounted for as the death toll from floods rises.
More than 1000 people are missing in flood-stricken regions of western Germany and Belgium, where waters are still rising with the death toll exceeding 100 and communications in some areas cut.
Entire communities lay in ruins on Friday after swollen rivers swept through towns and villages in the western German states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, Belgium as well as the Netherlands.
“It was terrible not to able to help people,” Frank Thel, a resident of Schuld in Rhineland-Palatinate, said in front of a pile of rubble.
“They were waving at us from windows. Houses were collapsing to the left and right of them and in the house between they were waving.”
In Germany alone, 103 people have died in what is the country’s worst mass loss of life in years.
Twelve of the dead were residents of a home for disabled people in Sinzig south of Cologne who were surprised by the flash floods during the night.
The death toll is expected to rise further as more houses collapsed while in Belgium, media said at least 14 had died.
About 114,000 households in Germany were without power on Friday and mobile phone networks had collapsed in some flooded regions, which meant that family and friends were unable to track down their loved ones.
In Rhineland-Palatinate, about 1300 people were reported missing in the Ahrweiler district south of Cologne, the district government said on Facebook.
Further north, in Erftstadt, several houses collapsed on Friday morning and authorities feared casualties.
Roads around the town were impassable after being washed away by the floods.
Rescue crews tried to reach residents by boat and had to communicate via walkie-talkie.
“The network has completely collapsed. The infrastructure has collapsed. Hospitals can’t take anyone in. Nursing homes had to be evacuated,” a spokeswoman for the regional government of Cologne said.
The German military has deployed more than 700 soldiers to support rescue efforts.
Authorities worried that further dams could overflow, spilling uncontrolled floods into communities below, and were trying to ease pressure by releasing more water from them.
About 4500 people were relocated downstream from the Steinbachtal dam in western Germany, which had been at risk of a breach overnight, and a stretch of motorway was closed.
Thousands of residents in the north of the Limburg province in neighbouring Netherlands were ordered to leave their homes early Friday as floodwaters peaked.
Emergency services were on high alert and authorities were also reinforcing dikes along vulnerable stretches where floodwaters continue to rise.
Waters were receding in the southern city of Maastricht, where there was no flooding and in the town of Valkenburg, where damage was widespread, but no one was hurt.
In Belgium, at least four people were missing.
The Belgium crisis centre has urged people in large parts of the south and east of the country not to travel.
France sent 40 soldiers and a helicopter to Liege in Belgium to help with the flood situation, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Twitter.