The visuals are frightfully shocking. Nature has unleased its fury on either side of the Atlantic in the shape of an almost unprecedented heatwave in the United States of America and devastating rain and floods in western Europe that have killed some 120 people, most tragically in Germany. The crippling portrayal of Nature is almost exceptional. Images of the devastation in Germany and Belgium showed entire villages under water.
The Netherlands and Luxembourg have been no less affected by the extreme rainfall. In Germany, at least 105 people have been killed across two western states. In the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, 1,300 people remained unaccounted for till Saturday morning.
There has as yet been no explanation for the potentially mortal rain and floods just as there has been no diagnosis of the sizzling heatwave, except that both fall under the umbrella of climate change-induced events. The rescue efforts continue although there is some criticism that the initial response in places was sluggish.
A dam along the river Rur in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia collapsed on Friday night, and officials have started the evacuation of about 700 residents in the Ophoven neighbourhood of the city of Wassenberg. Dutch officials ordered the evacuation of 10,000 people in the municipality of Venlo, where the Maas river rose faster than expected. The high waters are expected to stay until Sunday evening.
Water is being drained out from the Steinbach dam to reduce pressure. Creeks are filling, but are not expected to overflow their banks. Germany is groping in the absence of power. At least 165,000 people are currently without electricity in RhinelandPalatinate and neighbouring North Rhine-Westphalia, where at least 43 people have died.
“The situation remains very dynamic; we do not know how many people are unaccounted for,” said an official. The death toll in Rhineland-Palatinate has risen to at least 62. The state premier, Malu Dreyer, said that every hour brought bad news. “It is to be feared that the number will rise even further,”
Dreyer said, adding: “We have not yet reached the stage where we can say that the situation is easing.” As rescue efforts continued on Friday, more tragic scenes came to light. At least nine people at a disabled care facility drowned after being caught in floodwaters. The facility, located in the town of Sinzig, became so quickly inundated that the sleeping residents could not escape, despite efforts by caretakers to bring them to safety.
The states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland have been the worst affected by the record rainfall, which authorities have called the heaviest in a century. In the summer month of July, Europe and the United States of America have defied the normal certitudes of Nature, exposing the helplessness of man. Across the Atlantic, the weather forecasts have been less than convincing ~ let alone reliable ~ to summon an understatement, and that has added to the woes of people.