At least 155 people remain missing in Germany a week after days of extreme rainfall in western Europe caused devastating floods.
The president of the country’s disaster relief organisation said she “did not expect” rescue teams to find any more survivors in the debris.
Sabine Lackner of the federal agency for technical relief told RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland: “Sadly at this stage it is very likely that victims can only be recovered and not rescued.”
Officials said at least 171 people have died since the flooding began last week.
Of that number, 123 have been confirmed in the worst-affected Rhineland-Palatinate state, where houses had been swept away and debris had been left piling up in the streets.
Another 764 people have been injured and 155 people are still recorded as missing.
A live map issued by the German Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief shows the extent of the disaster, with flood warnings covering much of western Germany and surrounding areas.
In neighbouring Belgium at least 31 people have lost their lives following the extreme weather, officials confirmed, while dozens are still missing or unaccountable.
Where are the floods in Germany?
The western states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia were the worst hit in Germany.
Thousands of people in the regions have been left without access to drinking water, electricity and gas.
Streets were turned into raging torrents, causing houses to collapse and sweeping away cars, after days of torrential rain left rivers overflowing.
“There are people dead, there are people missing, there are many who are still in danger,” the governor of Rhineland-Palatinate state, Malu Dreyer, said last week.
He told the regional parliament: “We have never seen such a disaster. It’s really devastating.”
The village of Schuld, which has a population of 700, was one of the worst-affected areas.
It was almost entirely destroyed, with dozens of homes collapsing overnight.
In the wine-growing Ahr valley and regions in North Rhine-Westphalia, divers were sent in to search submerged homes and vehicles.
Approximately 40,000 people are believed to have been affected by the floods in the area.
The town of Erftstadt-Blessem was also severely affected, with floodwaters causing a row of houses to fully or partially collapse.
The German military has been using armoured vehicles to clear away wrecked cars and trucks in the town, which lies south of Cologne.
A landslide caused the ground to collapse in one neighbourhood, leaving a giant sinkhole. Residents, many left with no possessions, were transported out.
Meteorologists said some areas in Germany had received two months’ worth of rain in just two days, with more than 150 litres per square metre falling over 24 hours in the west of the country.
The German Insurance Association has estimated the floods to have caused damages amounting to between €4bn and €5bn.
What has Angela Merkel said about the flooding?
Ms Merkel, who has returned to Germany from a visit to Washington DC for talks with US President Joe Biden, expressed her shock at the disaster.
She visited the worst-hit village of Schuld in Rhineland-Palatinate state over the weekend to survey the damage and meet survivors.
"It is shocking – I can almost say that the German language doesn't have words for the destruction that has been unleashed," she told reporters.
On Wednesday (21 July), the Chancellor and her Cabinet approved emergency financial aid worth €200m for people affected by the flood.
State governments are expected to match the federal aid programme, and a bigger package to go towards rebuilding essential infrastructure is expected to be announced at a later date.
Speaking at the White House on Thursday (15 July), she called it a day “characterised by fear, by despair, by suffering, and hundreds of thousands of people all of a sudden were faced with catastrophe”.
“My empathy and my heart goes out to all of those who in this catastrophe lost their loved ones, or who are still worrying about the fate of people still missing,” she added.
She said her government would not leave those affected by the flooding “alone with their suffering”, saying that it was doing its “utmost to help them in their distress”.
Mr Biden also expressed his condolences to the people of Germany “for the devastating loss of life and destruction due to the flooding over the past 24 hours”.
What happened in Belgium and the Netherlands?
Belgium was also hit by severe flooding, reporting at least 31 dead.
Residents of Liège, the country’s third-largest urban area with a population of 200,000, were instructed to evacuate or move to higher ground when the Meuse River overflowed its banks on Thursday.
Nearby, the Vesdre River split its banks and sent water cascading through the streets of Pepinster.
In Verviers, where dramatic video footage showed cars being swept away along a street, the prosecutor’s office said several bodies had been found.
Belgium declared Tuesday (20 July) an official day of mourning.
Historic downpours also battered Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
In the Netherlands, the centre of the city of Valkenburg, close to Belgian and German borders, was engulfed by water and several nursing homes were forced to evacuate.
Ten thousand people in the city of Maastricht, in Holland, were also ordered to evacuate.
Meanwhile, in Austria, the town centre of Hallein, near the German frontier, was under water.