Sabine Lackner, the head of the federal rescue organisation Technisches Hilfswerk (THW), believes there is now little chance that those who have been missing for the past week are still alive.
“We are currently still looking for missing people, for example when clearing the paths or pumping out the basement,” she told the German Editorial Network.
“At this point, however, it is unfortunately very likely that you can only recover the victims, not save them.”
In the storm-ravaged region of Ahrweiler, in northern Rhineland-Palatinate, around 155 people are still missing, while more than 40,000 people are thought to have been impacted by the floods.
Parts of the region still have no water, gas or electricity – and suppliers say it could take months to restore those services in the area.
The Marburger Bund doctors’ association have also warned that more lives could be lost due to the lack of medical services in badly hit parts of Rhineland-Palatinate.
With several GP’s practices becoming unusable in the floods, people with chronic illnesses could find it difficult to access treatment when they need it, they warned. The association is therefore calling for emergency doctors’ practices to be built in the region.
So far, at least 170 people have been confirmed dead in the floods: 48 in North-Rhine Westphalia, and 122 in Rhineland-Palatinate. According to state internal minister Roger Lewentz, around 770 people were injured in Rhineland-Palatinate alone.
Red Cross to assess damage in Rhineland-Palatinate
This Thursday, the President of the German Red Cross (DRK), Gerda Hasselfeldt, was set to visit Rhineland-Palatinate, in order to get a sense of the current situation in the region. She also wants to draw up an initial report of the deployment of emergency services and helpers, look to the coming weeks and comment on how well Germany is prepared for such disasters.
The North Rhine-Westphalian cabinet, meanwhile, will meet to discuss the consequences of the flash floods and financial aid for survivors. State premier Armin Laschet (CDU) has already announced that the state government will provide €200 million in emergency aid for the victims and promised that the payments would be processed quickly.
In the meantime, the base camp for the deployment of technical aid organisations, fire services, rescue services and the German armed forces has been erected on the Nürburgring Grand Prix racecourse. More than 4,500 helpers are expected on Thursday night on the site to deliver aid to the Ahr valley, operations manager Heinz Wolschendorf confirmed.
Blessem residents could return to their homes
In the Erftstadt-Blessem disaster area in North Rhine-Westphalia where floods triggered a landslide last week, some residents are expected to be allowed to return to their homes permanently from Thursday.
A security company employees checks the documents of a couple returning to their home in the Blessem district of North Rhine-Westphalia, which was hit by landslides on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marius Becker
Before many residents get the green light, however, geological experts must survey the area and confirm that the buildings are stable, District Administrator Frank Rock told DPA.
Once this has happened, “the citizens of Blessem must also be given the opportunity to re-enter their houses and apartments permanently, in particular to carry out clean-up work,” said Rock.
After heavy rainfall the previous week, Erftstadt-Blessem experienced a terrifying landslide on Friday as houses were swept away and others collapsed in the floods.
Several residents have said they will be glad to be able to return on Thursday in order to get a better sense of the damage caused. However, they are likely to be without electricity and running water for several days or weeks.