More than 150 people are now confirmed to have died after “historic” flooding across Germany and Belgium, with fears that the number will rise further as rescuers search for hundreds still missing.
Amid scenes of despair in both countries, emergency workers are toiling away to find survivors, clear up debris, and prevent further damage.
But there remain concerns that more devastation could be forthcoming, with dykes along one river from Belgium to the Netherlands and a dam in Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia said to be at risk of collapse.
The worst affected regions include some of the most prosperous in Europe, with astonishing footage from near Frankfurt showing an entire house being carried down the River Ahr.
Elsewhere, cars were upended, power networks went down and buildings collapsed as floodwaters rushed through villages such as Schuld, south of Bonn, in western Germany.
Thousands of people have been left homeless.
Police said that more than 90 people are now known to have died in western Germany’s Ahrweiler county, one of the worst-hit areas, and more casualties are feared.
On Friday, authorities gave a death toll of 63 for the whole of Rhineland-Palatinate state, where Ahrweiler is located.
Another 43 people were confirmed dead in neighbouring North Rhine-Westphalia state, Germany’s most populous, and 20 others were killed across the border in Belgium.
State premier Armin Laschet said the flooding was a “catastrophe of historic dimensions”, while German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was “stunned” by the disaster.
“The floods have literally pulled the ground from beneath many people’s feet. They lost their houses, farms or businesses,” Mr Laschet told reporters.
In Erftstadt, southwest of Cologne, 50 people were rescued after the ground beneath their homes collapsed, official Frank Rock told local broadcasters.
Aerial pictures showed a massive landslide at a gravel pit on the edge of the town.
“One has to assume that under the circumstances some people didn’t manage to escape,” said Mr Rock.
Sky News visited one area of North Rhine-Westphalia where police are patrolling to ensure people have evacuated amid fears a nearby dam could collapse and consume hundreds of houses.
In Belgium, 20 deaths have been confirmed and interior minister Annelies Verlinden said another 20 people were missing on Friday as the country declared a day of mourning.
Dykes on the River Meuse that runs from Belgium into the Netherlands were also at risk of collapsing, Mr Verlinden added.
Some 200 patients were evacuated from a hospital in the Dutch town of Venlo as a precaution.
Thousands of people in the Netherlands’ Limburg province were also ordered to leave early on Friday.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte declared some regions disaster areas to free up emergency funds.
Meteorologists said some areas of western Europe had received two months’ rain in two days ahead of the floods, with more than 150 litres per square metre falling over 24 hours in parts of western Germany.
Several senior officials have blamed climate change for the disaster.
“Climate change isn’t abstract anymore. We are experiencing it up close and painfully,” said Malu Dreyer, governor of Rhineland-Palatinate state.
She said it showed the need to speed up action on the issue.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also said it showed that decisive action was the only way “to limit the extreme weather conditions we are now experiencing”.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has been in the US but is reportedly set to visit Schuld – one of the worst affected villages – on Sunday.