BERLIN — Severe flooding overnight in western Germany has killed at least six people and left dozens of others stranded on their rooftops as severe storms inundated towns and cities across a large swathe of Western Europe.
Swift-moving waters from swollen rivers surged through villages, leading to the deaths of four people, the police in Koblenz, Germany, said on Thursday, and two rescuers drowned elsewhere in the country. In Belgium, at least two people were killed in severe flooding, and the military was sent to assist with recovery efforts. Neighboring Switzerland and the Netherlands were also battered by the storms.
The flooding in the German states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia was some of the worst in decades, after several days of steady rain. Parts of the highway were closed because of the flooding, and Germany’s main rail provider, Deutsche Bahn, urged travelers to cancel all trips in the affected region.
Armin Laschet, North Rhine-Westphalia’s governor — who is running to replace Angela Merkel as Germany’s chancellor in national elections on Sept. 26 — cut short a campaign stop in Bavaria on Thursday to travel to some of the hardest-hit areas in the state.
Jürgen Pföhler, the district commissioner of the state’s Aberweiler region, described the situation as “very serious.” He urged residents to stay in their homes and make their way to higher levels if possible while awaiting help.
Hundreds of firefighters worked through the night to evacuate people who had been left stranded. Two died while trying to rescue people in Altena, in North Rhine-Westphalia, the police said.
“The water is still flowing knee-high through the streets, parked cars are thrown sideways, and trash and debris are piling up on the sides,” Alexander Bange, the district spokesman in the Märkische region of North Rhine-Westphalia, told the German news agency D.P.A.
“It is really very depressing here,” he said, adding, “The only good thing is that it stopped raining last night.”
Six homes in the town of Schuld in the Eifel region collapsed after hours of strong rain strained sewer systems and caused rivers and streams to burst their banks, the authorities said. Several other homes were evacuated over fears that they might collapse, and the police received calls that dozens of people were missing.
Images from Rhineland-Palatinate showed villages submerged in murky brown water. Dozens of communities were left without power, while some villages were cut off entirely, the police said. Cellphone networks were also down.
The authorities urged residents to upload photos and videos of the storm to help efforts to find the people reported as missing.
In the city of Wuppertal, sirens sounded just after midnight to warn people living near the Wupper river to evacuate. Much of the city remained closed early Thursday as hundreds of firefighters worked to rescue people who had been left stranded.
Neighboring Belgium and the Netherlands also experienced significant flooding as the weather system made its way across the region. In Belgium, at least two people were reported to have died in the Liège Province as a result of the flooding, according to Belgian’s public broadcaster, RTBF. The Belgian Defense Force said it had deployed helicopters and personnel to assist the local authorities in rescue and recovery efforts.
In the Netherlands, soldiers were deployed to help with evacuations in Limburg Province, where at least one nursing home had to be cleared, according to the Dutch news outlet NU.nl.