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Divers search for bodies as German town counts cost of tragic flood

Written by on 17/07/2021

From a bridge in one the most severely flood-hit towns in Germany, we watched as the army moved heavy lifting equipment onto the bypass below.

Cars and lorries were visible in the water that covered the road but after a dry, hot day the level had fallen enough for a search and clearance operation to begin.

Divers moved around the vehicles, looking inside for some of the hundreds still missing in Germany.

The fear was some people may have died in their vehicles when floodwaters hit Erftstadt.

It's feared divers and rescue crews may find more bodies as waters recede in Erftstadt
Image: It is feared divers and rescue crews may find more bodies as waters recede in Erftstadt

While we were there no victims were found but there are vast areas still to search here.

Much of the town – where some houses collapsed during the floods – is still a no-go area for residents.

A vast sinkhole has appeared in one neighbourhood, making it too dangerous for people to return to properties they were forced to leave.

More on Europe Floods

We meet some of them queuing to receive €200 (£171) payments to buy basic necessities. They left their homes at speed and took little or nothing with them.

One man, Peter Baer, tells me that the three houses next to him were totally demolished. When he left his house was still standing but he has no idea what state it is in.

Much of the town of Erftstadt is a no-go zone
Image: Much of the town of Erftstadt is a no-go zone

Momika Preiter, who is in line with her daughter, says the floodwater came in violently. She wanted to stay upstairs but fire crews knocked on her door to say ‘get out, your life is at risk’.

As they wait for their emergency money, staff from a local restaurant hand out free pizzas.

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Flood relief arrives for German victims
Peter Baer told us he does not know if his house is still standing
Image: Peter Baer told us he does not know if his house is still standing

They tell us they just want to help and there is a real sense of being in it together here.

But there is also a common sense of fear. That it may rain heavily again and the floodwaters return.

People in Ahrweiler start to clear up
Image: People in the town of Ahrweiler start to clear up

Fear, too, about what has happened to their homes, streets, neighbours.

So many are still unaccounted for in western Germany and only now as the waters recede can intensive searches begin of areas that were submerged.

Pizza was offered to those queuing for cash handouts
Image: Pizza was offered to those queuing for cash handouts

Officials have warned the number of dead is certain to increase.

And many here worry if they’ll recognise a name or notice a face is missing from the evacuation centres.

That is a tough thing to have to think about for people who’ve already been through so much.

 Sky News

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