(CNN) – At least 194 people have died and hundreds more are missing Catastrophic flood They will hit large parts of Western Europe. Tens of thousands of people were unable to return to their homes and many were left without access to electricity and clean water.
The floods, caused by unprecedented rains, affected parts of West Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Many parts of the southern Netherlands have been evacuated since the Muse River rose to a level not seen for more than a century on Saturday. In the town of Wenlow, where Muse sits, 10,000 people were forced to flee their homes.
The rapid rise in water levels forced volunteers and the military to move around the clock on Saturday. After one of those bunds broke in southern Limburg province on Friday, large-scale flooding in the neighborhood caused sand bundles to form and flood protection.
Production completed: Wenlow’s Regional Safety Agency said land and flood protection were being maintained overnight and no major flooding was expected.
In Germany, meanwhile, the true extent of the devastation caused by the floods was revealed, with the water receding over the weekend, leaving much to be desired.
In a century described by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier as “the worst natural disaster”, entire cities, railroads and roads were demolished, killing at least 158 people.
Most of the deaths were in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate, where 110 people were killed, Cobblens police said Sunday.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who visited Schultz, one of the worst-hit cities on Sunday, called the disaster “surreal.”
“It’s shocking, I can almost say there are no words for disaster in German,” he told reporters in the Rhineland-Palatinate city of Adina. Merkel promised that her government would provide financial assistance as soon as possible.
The Prime Minister of the Rhineland-Palatinate state, Malu Trier, told Merkel that the area was “a place of horror and destruction”.
Pope Francis expressed his solidarity with the areas affected by the disaster. “May the Lord receive the dead and comfort their loved ones, and may he sustain the efforts of all who help those who have caused serious harm,” he said during a speech at the Vatican on Sunday.
In Belgium, the National Crisis Center said on Sunday that the situation was gradually improving across the country and that flood-affected areas were “not immediately in danger.” He said the search for the victims was continuing and the biggest concern at the moment was the lack of clean water in some of the worst affected areas. The center said at least 31 people had died in the country.
“Rescue operations have been completed, but search operations are ongoing in several areas,” the center said in a statement.
Some parts of Western Europe experienced catastrophic flooding after experiencing historic rainfall, which lasted more than a month in 24 hours.
Cologne, in North Rhine-Westphalia, recorded 154 millimeters of rain in the first 24 hours of Thursday morning, more than double the July average of 87 millimeters. In the Ahrweiler district, 207 millimeters of rain fell in just nine hours, according to the European Meteorological Agency.
The downpour caused severe flash flooding, with water levels rising within minutes.
While scientists are quick to say what role climate change has played in causing this particular flood, heavy rainfall events similar to those seen in Western Europe this week are becoming more common and severe.
Reported by CNN’s Sam Kaylee, Thomas Edgeler, Attica Schubert, Vasco Cottovio, Sarah Dean, Barbara Vojasser, Sharon Brightwhite, Martin Goilando and Joseph Attaman. Ivana Kottasova wrote from London.