Catastrophic flooding has caused widespread devastation across Europe; the floods are the most severe the continent has experienced in decades. Germany and Belgium are reporting the highest levels of destruction, with entire villages and towns buried under landslides, water, and debris. Large regions of Western Europe experienced historic levels of rainfall, with a month’s worth of rain falling within 24 hours. Many residents are unaccounted for, injured, or displaced. The death toll continues to rise in the aftermath of the flash floods.
Cologne, the fourth largest city in Germany, is now a site of destruction. A giant sinkhole destroyed numerous historic buildings across the city. Local resident, Kautsch, reports “The water was flowing and pulled parts of the town into that hole, and now…a lot of buildings still can be damaged.”
The BBC reports over 15,000 police and emergency workers have been deployed in Germany to help with the search and rescue. Gregor Jericho told the BBC: “Streets, bridges and some buildings are destroyed. There’s garbage everywhere.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the floods as a “catastrophe.” She adds the government’s immediate focus is on the rescue and response to those affected by the floods.
By Saturday, water levels began to recede across much of the affected areas. The mayor of Wassenberg, near Cologne, says water levels had been stabilizing since the heavy rains. However, “it’s too early to give the all-clear, but we are cautiously optimistic,” he said. Officials fear more dams could break and are closely monitoring reservoirs. The recovery process will be an immense undertaking. Households, businesses, and livelihoods have been devastated by the flooding. Electricity, gas, and communication lines are destroyed in many areas, adding to the arbours search and rescue task. Resident Micheal Lang says, “Everything is destroyed; you don’t recognize the scenery.”
European leaders attribute rising temperatures and climate change to extreme rainfall across Europe. Global warming causes more water to evaporate while conversely producing a warmer atmosphere that increases rainfall intensity. Hannah Cloke, a professor of hydrology at the University of Reading, says, “These kind of high-energy, sudden summer torrents of rain are exactly what we expect in our rapidly heating climate.”
Climate scientists urge governments to take action against climate change and immediately reduce their carbon footprint. It is imperative governments and organizations work pragmatically and with urgency to protect our climate from further damage. Climate change is a global threat and, as such, must be addressed on a world scale. Now, more than ever, nations must band together to protect the world from a common threat: global warming.