At least 183 people have died and dozens others are missing in Germany's worst floods in living memory, triggered by days of incessant rainfall, with Chancellor Angela Merkel set to visit affected areas on Sunday to survey the damage and meet survivors.
Merkel is scheduled to travel to the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, where she will visit the village of Schuld, one of the worst-affected places from the floods as the river Ahr has burst its banks as torrents have swept houses, cars and other property. Police said that at least 110 people have died and 670 are injured in the Rhineland-Palatinate state itself, AFP reported.
27 people have also lost their lives in neighbouring Belgium, with rescue operations ongoing in both countries. The extreme rainfall has also affected Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
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In Austria, emergency workers in the Salzburg and Tyrol regions were on high alert for flooding. The historic town centre of Hallein, near the German frontier, was under water.
"Heavy rains and storms are unfortunately causing severe damage in several places in Austria," Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Twitter.
Merkel has called the floods a "tragedy" and pledged support from the federal government for Germany's stricken municipalities. Speaking alongside US President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday, Merkel said her "heart goes out to all of those who in this catastrophe lost their loved ones".
The government has said it is working to set up a special aid fund, with the cost of damage expected to reach several billion euros.
The disaster has increasingly taken on political overtones in Germany, which heads to the polls on September 26 for a general election that will mark the end of Merkel's 16 years in power. With experts saying climate change is making extreme weather events like these more likely, candidates vying to succeed the veteran leader have called for more climate action.