Flooding in western Germany has left six people dead and many missing, while causing at least six houses to collapse.
Police said on Thursday that four people were dead and 30 missing around the wine-growing hub of Ahrweiler, south of Bonn, after the Ahr river, which flows into the Rhine, burst its banks, bringing down the houses.
Around 50 were stranded on roofs, and more houses were at risk of collapse.
“There are many places where fire brigades and rescue workers have been deployed. We don’t yet have a very precise picture because rescue measures are continuing,” a police spokesperson said.
Two firefighters died in the Sauerland region, northeast of Bonn, on Wednesday, police said.
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The news agency DPA said one had drowned after slipping and losing his footing and a second had collapsed after a rescue operation.
Hagen city in Rhine-Westphalia declared a state of emergency after the Volme river breached its bank.
The city’s crisis team issued an alert warning that the waters would reach levels seen just four times a century in the coming hours.
Those who lived in homes near the river were urged to move to higher ground immediately, public broadcaster WDR reported.
Around 25 more homes were at risk of collapse in the district of Schuld bei Adenau, in the hilly Eiffel region, SWR broadcaster said earlier, citing police.
Rail and road transport were disrupted, and shipping on the Rhine, an important trade artery, was suspended.
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The freak floods have been described as a once-in-25-years occurrence.
More heavy rain was due in southwestern Germany, on the upper reaches of the German Rhine, on Thursday and Friday, the German Weather Service said.
A continuous downpour is expected until tomorrow evening.
“We see this kind of situation only in winter ordinarily,” Bernd Mehlig, an environment official from North Rhine-Westphalia, the most affected region, told WDR.
“Something like this, with this intensity, is completely unusual in summer.”
Parts of Hagen have become inaccessible and are isolated due to the high waters, with photos showing the flooded back garden of an evacuated retirement residence in the city.
Cellars and some hospitals have also seen flooding.
Residents of Duesseldorf, a major business centre, were also asked to evacuate.