The death toll from devastating floods across parts of western Germany and Belgium rose above 90 on Friday, as the search continued for hundreds of people still unaccounted for and officials warned such disasters could become more common due to climate change. Authorities in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate said 50 people had died there, including at least nine residents of an assisted living facility for people with disabilities, the AP reports. In neighboring North Rhine-Westphalia state, officials put the death toll at 30, but warned that the figure could rise further. Some 1,300 people in Germany were still reported missing, though authorities said efforts to contact them could be hampered by disrupted roads and phone connections.
In a provisional tally, the Belgian death toll has risen to 12, with five people still missing, local authorities and media reported early Friday. The flash floods this week followed days of heavy rainfall which turned streams and streets into raging torrents that swept away cars and caused houses to collapse across the region. President Biden and Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed their sorrow over the loss of life during a news conference at the White House late Thursday. The longtime German leader said she feared that "the full extent of this tragedy will only be seen in the coming days." Rescuers were rushing Friday to help people trapped in their homes in the town of Erftstadt, southwest of Cologne. Regional authorities said several people had died after their houses collapsed due to subsidence, and aerial pictures showed what appeared to be a massive sinkhole.