At least 60 people have died as floods hit several European countries, leaving homes collapsed and sweeping away cars.
Most of those dead were confirmed in Germany, with dozens of other people missing there and some trapped on rooftops waiting to be rescued.
However, Switzerland and Belgium – where eight deaths were reported – have also been badly hit by the heavy rain causing rivers and reservoirs to burst their banks.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a visit to Washington: ‘I grieve for those who have lost their lives in this disaster.
‘We still don’t know the number. But it will be many.’
Authorities in North Rhine-Westphalia state said at least 30 people have died, while 28 deaths were reported in Rhineland-Palatinate state to the south.
The governor of Rhineland-Palatinate state, Malu Dreyer, told the regional parliament: We have never seen such a disaster. It’s really devastating.’
Authorities in the western German county of Euskirchen said eight deaths had been reported there.
Efforts to help people were hampered as phone and internet connections were down in part of the region, south west of Cologne.
Police in the western city of Koblenz said four people had died in Ahrweiler county, and about 50 were trapped on the roofs of their houses.
Six houses collapsed overnight in the village of Schuld, in a volcanic region of rolling hills and small valleys south west of Cologne, with up to 70 people reported missing.
Dozens more were trapped on the roofs of their houses awaiting rescue. Authorities used inflatable boats and helicopters, and the German army deployed 200 soldiers to assist in the rescue operation.
The extent of the damage is still unclear after many villages were cut off by floodwater and landslides that made roads impassable.
Videos posted on social media showed cars floating down streets and houses partly collapsed.
Authorities declared an emergency in the region after days of heavy rain that also affected large parts of western and central Germany, as well as neighbouring countries.
Police said four people died in separate incidents after basements were flooded in Cologne, Kamen and Wuppertal, where authorities warned that a dam could burst.
Authorities in Rhine-Sieg county, south of Cologne, ordered the evacuation of several villages below the Steinbachtal reservoir amid fears the dam there could also break.
A fireman drowned on Wednesday during rescue work in the western town of Altena and another collapsed during rescue operations at a power plant in Werdohl-Elverlingsen.
One man was missing in the eastern town of Joehstadt after disappearing while trying to secure his property from rising waters, authorities said.
Rail connections were suspended in large parts of North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state.
German weather service DWD predicted the rainfall would ease today.
Relentless rain through the night worsened conditions in eastern Belgium, where one person was reported drowned and at least one other was missing.
Some towns saw water levels rise to unprecedented levels and had their centres turned into gushing rivers.
Major highways were inundated and in the south and east, and the railway authority said all services were stopped, adding that ‘alternative transport is highly unlikely’.
In eastern Eupen, on the German border, one man was reported dead after he was swept away by a torrent, a local governor told RTBf network.
In Liege, the Meuse river could break its banks by early afternoon and spill into the heart of the city. Police warned residents to take precautionary measures.
Authorities in the southern Dutch town of Valkenburg, close to the German and Belgian borders, evacuated a care home and a hospice overnight amid flooding that turned the tourist town’s main street into a river, media reported.
The government sent 70 troops to the southern province of Limburg late on Wednesday to help with transporting evacuees and filling sandbags as rivers burst their banks. There were no reports of injuries linked to flooding in the Netherlands.
Unusually intense rain has also inundated a stretch of north-east France this week, downing trees and forcing the closure of dozens of roads. A train route to Luxembourg was disrupted, and firefighters evacuated dozens of people from homes near the Luxembourg and German border and in the Marne region, according to local broadcaster France Bleu.
The equivalent of two months of rain has fallen on some areas in the last one or two days, according to the French national weather service. With the ground already saturated, the service forecast more downpours on Thursday and issued flood warnings for 10 regions.
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more stories like this, check our news page.