German floods: Several feared dead after landslide south of Cologne

Several people have died in a landslide in Erftstadt-Blessem in Germany's North Rhine Westphalia state, local officials said on Friday, after dozens were killed by flooding in the country in recent days. 

German floods: Several feared dead after landslide south of Cologne
A photo shared by the Cologne district government on Twitter on Friday shows the disaster situation in Erftstadt-Blessem. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Rhein-Erft-Kreis | Rhein-Erft-Kreis

“Houses were largely swept away by the water and some collapsed. Several people are missing,” according to a tweet from the Cologne local authority about the landslide.

“There are fatalities,” confirmed a spokeswoman for the district government of Cologne to German newspaper Welt on Friday. No information could be given yet on the exact number of people who have died. 

The local authority said in the tweet that emergency calls were coming from houses, but “rescue is not possible in many cases”.

“Our disaster control team is on the scene,” they said. 

German emergency responders were on Friday still searching for hundreds of missing people after the worst floods in living memory killed dozens of people in the country’s western regions.

READ ALSO: Dozens dead after flooding disaster in western Germany

Massive landslides

Aerial photographs distributed by the district government and photos taken by DPA photographers show landslides of enormous proportions in Erfstadt-Blessem, which is around 50 minutes from Cologne. Houses have been swept away while cars are lying in huge holes in the ground.

An aerial photograph shows the catastrophic situation in Erftstadt-Blessem. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Rhein-Erft-Kreis | Rhein-Erft-Kreis

After the extremely heavy rain on Wednesday resulting in flash floods, there were evacuations in several localities.

“We are currently experiencing a crisis, the dimensions of which we are not yet able to assess today,” district administrator Frank Rock (CDU) had said on Thursday.

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What temperatures can we expect in Germany this week?

Parts of Germany will see another heatwave this week as temperatures soar.

What temperatures can we expect in Germany this week?

The German Weather Service (DWD) has predicted that the mercury will climb in some regions of to around 34C this week. 

“After low pressure ‘Karin’ gave parts of Germany rain, sometimes in large quantities, high pressure ‘Piet’ is now back in pole position,” said meteorologist Lars Kirchhübel of the DWD.

This high pressure zone will dominate the weather in large parts of western and central Europe over the coming days, the weather expert said, adding that it will reach Germany too. 

On Monday temperatures remained fairly cool across the country after a weekend of showers, but they are set to climb over the course of the week, particularly on Wednesday and Thursday. Forecasters predict it could reach 32C in Stuttgart and 33C in Cologne on Thursday. Locally, temperatures could reach 34C. 

However, from the Oder and Neisse rivers to the Erzgebirge mountains and southeast Bavaria, denser clouds and some showers are to be expected. This is due to a high-level low pressure system over the Balkan region, according to forecasters. Short showers are also possible in the Black Forest.

“In most of the rest of the country, high ‘Piet’ will be able to hold its ground,” said Kirchhübel.

READ ALSO: Heavy rain in Bavaria swells rivers, but flooding avoided

At the end of the week, thunderstorms are forecast but temperatures are expected to remain high. 

August in Germany ‘too dry’

According to the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, August as a whole – apart from a few areas in eastern Germany – will be too dry compared to the multi-year average.

The Black Forest, the High Rhine and the Allgäu to the Bavarian Forest, however, are not expected to have any major problems due to the high rainfall of the past few days.

“Looking at Rhineland-Palatinate, the southern half of Hesse, the western half of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Franconia shows a different picture,” said Kirchhübel. In the last 30 days, only about 10 percent of the usual level of precipitation fell in some places.

“At some stations, no precipitation at all has been measured in August,” added Kirchhübel, referencing Würzburg as an example.

Rainfall at the weekend caused the water in the Rhine river to rise slightly. In Emmerich, the water level reached a positive value again after the historic low of the past few days: in the morning, it showed three centimetres – an increase of six centimetres compared to the previous day.

The water level also rose by several centimetres at the other measuring points in North Rhine-Westphalia: in Cologne, the level rose to 80cm and in Düsseldorf to 38cm.

READ ALSO: Damaged freighter blocks traffic at drought-hit Rhine

Despite this encouraging trend, the Waterways and Shipping Authority said it did not expect a huge improvement in water levels in the foreseeable future due to more hot weather coming.