Floods to last as thousands forced out of homes
By Zuzanna Reda-Jakima and Heledd Pritchard
Luxembourg warned of further floods across the country until midnight on Thursday, as thousands of people were forced out of their homes in a natural catastrophe that killed at least 42 people in neighbouring Germany.
Torrential rain caused rivers to burst their banks on Wednesday night and early on Thursday, damaging homes and causing traffic disruption, as fallen trees blocked roads and several train connections were cancelled.
People who were impacted by the floods in Echternach had to evacuate their homes and go to nearby centres, the emergency services said in a tweet on Thursday afternoon. They had previously said the entire population of the city would have to leave.
In the commune of Rosport in the east of Luxembourg, 44 people have already been forced out of their homes and another 250 waiting to be evacuated, emergency services said. Several people have also been evacuated from Vianden, in the north, and placed in a cultural centre.
“Given the scale of the cases, (the emergency teams at) CGDIS are forced to focus on securing people in danger, as well as protecting critical and strategic infrastructure,” the government said in a statement at 02:00 hrs on Thursday.
Emergency services were called out 1,200 times on Thursday morning, primarily to rescue or help people, although nobody was injured, the government crisis committee said in a statement. Thunderstorms and more rain are expected to last throughout the day until 21:00 hrs, and flooding until midnight.
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“Although the weather situation has calmed down, the risk of rising levels in some rivers persists throughout the day,” the government added.
In Rhineland-Palatinate, which borders Luxembourg, and North Rhine-Westphalia in west Germany, at least 42 people have died due to the floods and up to 70 are missing, according to German media reports. It is unclear whether some of those missing were on holiday or had gone to stay with friends or family.
The MeteoLux weather service reported that by 02:00 hrs on Thursday, between 60 and 80 litres per square metre had fallen on average over the previous 24 hours. More than 100 road sections are now blocked, and while authorities are working to clear major roads, traffic is still disrupted in some areas.
Trains between Luxembourg and Thionville, just over the border in France, will be replaced by a bus until Sunday due to flooding on the line near Bettembourg.
In the capital, the Alzette river burst its banks, and river levels were expected to increase until later on Thursday.
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Due to extremely high demand, “emergency services CGDIS can no longer respond to all requests for assistance as it needs to concentrate its forces on rescuing people in distress and protecting critical infrastructure,” the emergency unit said in a statement.
Authorities urged residents of flood-prone areas to move their cars out of garages and protect their homes.
The commune of Hesperange is warning people in the area not to drink tap water for the next 24 hours, until around 14.00 on Friday. Some streets in Mersch, Beringen and the Rollingen district in central Luxembourg have no electricity and are expected to be reconnected on Friday.
The horesca sector representing hotels, restaurants and cafes has called on the government to trigger a state of natural disaster so that venues affected by the floods and torrential rains can request support.
“Many hotels, restaurants and cafes have suffered considerably from the health crisis and while the tourist season has just started, the severe bad weather in the last few hours have caused serious damage to a significant number of businesses,” the sector said in a statement on Thursday.
Luxembourg authorities issued a red alert for a dozen communes, with Mersch, Diekirch and Bollendorf hit the hardest. The city of Ettelbrück said roads to the city were completely blocked and asked drivers not to come to the city for now.
The Alzette river in the Pfaffenthal neighbourhood in the capital reached a level of 429 cms shortly before midnight on Thursday. Any level above 270 cms is considered an emergency.
Water levels in the Moselle river are expected to continue to rise until the weekend and the riverbanks in Stadtbredimus near Remich in the south east of the country are likely to burst.
A hotline is now open for anyone impacted by the floods on +352 4796 4796 between 08:00 and 12:00 hrs and 13:00 and 17:00 hrs.