At least 93 dead and more missing after flood disaster in western Germany
Authorities in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate said Friday that at least 50 people have died in devastating floods in the western state. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia is also hugely affected, with around 30 dead so far. The national death toll has risen to at least 93.
“The number of dead has gone up to 50” from 28 in the badly hit region, a spokesman for the interior ministry of Rhineland-Palatinate, Timo Haungs, told AFP on Friday morning.
At least 28 people died in the district of Ahrweiler in Rhineland-Palatinate, including nine residents who lived in a social facility for people with mental disabilities, according to initial reports.
Dozens remain missing in western Germany, raising fears the death toll could rise further following the region’s worst floods in living memory.
“I fear that we will only see the full extent of the disaster in the coming days,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said from Washington, where she met with President Joe Biden.
Catching residents of several regions unaware and leaving destruction and despair in their wake, the masses of water were dubbed the “flood of death” by German newspaper Bild.
Anyone who has been paying attention will note that large-scale nature-related disasters are increasing.
Every few weeks it seems, Earth unleashes devastating violence of some sort or other. An earthquake—a tornado—a tsunami—a massive storm—a flood—a drought—a rash of wildfires. It levels property, destroys homes, decimates crops, claims lives. And another constellation of survivors are left breathless in its wake, tasked with trying to piece their shattered lives back together.
It is a dreadful reminder of an awesome and important reality.
In our modern world, industrialization has done much to insulate a great many of us from the elements. We have paved over our land. We have abandoned our farms in favor of climate-controlled homes, offices and malls. Concrete, steel and glass shield us from routine rain, hail, sleet, snow, heat, chill. These former crop-killers are now mere inconveniences, for most of us.
It’s only when nature gets really nasty—when rains turn into floods, when blizzards cancel flights, when droughts demand water restrictions, when a temblor topples infrastructure—that we even think to acknowledge the power it still holds over us. It dwarfs us. Impressive as our tower-of-Babel society is, it remains awkwardly vulnerable to the sheer elemental power of the planet in its fury.
History shows, in fact, that whole societies have risen or fallen because of favorable or foul forces of nature.
And in recent times, violent outbursts of these forces have been speeding up in tempo.
You can read more in our free booklet Why ‘Natural’ Disasters?