Firefighter drowns and army deployed amid severe flooding in Germany
A firefighter has drowned and the army was deployed to help stranded residents after heavy rain triggered severe flooding in parts of western Germany, disrupting rail, road and river transport in the country’s most populous region.
The German weather service issued an extreme weather warning on Wednesday for parts of three western states, while Hagen, a city of 180,000, declared a state of emergency after the Volme river burst its banks.
With Germans voting in September to choose a successor to the chancellor, Angela Merkel, the extreme weather could heighten awareness of global heating, a topic with which the Greens, running second to Merkel’s conservatives, have so far failed to dominate the agenda.
Hagen’s crisis team said that water would reach levels seen not more than four times a century in coming hours and warned everyone who lived near the town’s rivers to move to higher ground immediately, public broadcaster WDR reported.
“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 were described as being isolated by high waters and all but inaccessible. Soldiers had to be sent to clear some areas of the city. Residents were also told to leave one district of regional capital Düesseldorf.
One care home in Hagen had to be evacuated, while across the region firefighters were busy pumping water out of hundreds of cellars. In one hospital, flood waters caused lifts to fail.
The firefighter died when he lost his footing in flood waters and was swept away, authorities told WDR. Two men, aged 53 and 81, were missing elsewhere in the region.