July 27. 2021. 12:08

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Germany floods: Five dead, 50 missing as heavy rain causes houses to collapse

Firefighters move sandbags against the rising water level of the Duessel, which has already flooded large parts of Duesseldorf Grafenberg, Germany. Photograph: Sascha Steinbach/EPA

Five people are dead and at least 50 are missing as two days of continuous, heavy rain in western Germany causes massive floods and travel chaos.

Flash floods hit cities across Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany’s most populous state, turning streets into rivers and causing houses to collapse.

Further heavy rain and storms are forecast for Thursday and Germany’s weather service said up to 120 litres of rain could be expected by the end of the day.

Two firemen were declared dead after they drowned in floods while six houses collapsed in Rhineland Palatinate, with two dozen more in danger of collapse. An 82 year-old man in the city of Solingen drowned after falling in his flooded cellar.

Local broadcaster SWR reported that rescue workers are struggling to reach five people trapped in a house that is surrounded with flood water.

NRW’s government in Düsseldorf declared a state of emergency, urging people to avoid the region, with much of the city of Hagen under water.

The army is assisting police and rescue workers in the city, evacuating entire neighbourhoods, including 70 residents in a Hagen old-age care home.

Similar rescue measures are underway across the country as a low pressure weather system causes once-in-a-generation floods from Schleswig-Holstein in the north to Saxony in the east and Bavaria in the south.

“There are many places where fire brigades and rescue workers have been deployed,” said a police spokesman in the southwestern city of Koblenz. “We do not yet have a very precise picture because rescue measures are continuing.”

NRW authorities say dozens of dams across the state are coming under pressure and may have to be opened on Thursday to release water.

Its state premier Armin Laschet, Christian Democratic Union (CDU) candidate to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel, is set to visit flood-hit areas on Thursday.