Over 200 people has died in the floods that specially hit Germany and Belgium. Protestant leaders call to pray and expressed gratitude for those who are helping.
At least 200 people have died and hundreds are missing after the massive flooding that hit western Europe, which caused homes to be ripped away and roads to be turned into wild rivers.
In Germany the death toll now stands at over 150 with more than a thousand still unaccounted for, while Belgian media is reporting over 25 deaths there. The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland are also affected.
The worst-hit German state is Rhineland-Palatinate, where authorities said that at least 60 people had died, including 12 residents of an assisted living facility for people with disabilities, followed by North Rhine-Westphalia, whose state officials put the death toll at 43, but warned that the figure will increase.
Around 15,000 police, soldiers and emergency service workers have been deployed in Germany to help with the search and rescue.
“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”, pointed out German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who is on a visit to Washington.
Speaking at the White House on Thursday, she said she “fear that we will only see the full extent of the disaster in the coming days”, and stressed tat her government would not leave those affected “alone with their suffering,” adding that it was doing its “utmost to help them in their distress”.
According to Malu Dreyer, the governor of Rhineland-Palatinate, “we’ve experienced droughts, heavy rain and flooding events several years in a row, including in our state; climate chance isn’t abstract anymore. We are experiencing it up close and painfully”.
Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, the Council President of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) wrote on Facebook on Thursday that “My thoughts are very much with all the people who have been affected these days by the terrible rainfall and the resulting floods”.
The water that many longed for in the drought has now become disaster. The weather extremes caused great material damage. I pray God will stand by them, give them strength where they are exhausted and courage where they threaten to despair. And give us all open eyes and ears so that we can see where and how we can help”, he added.
The President of the Protestant Church in the Rhineland, Thorsten Latzel, also said on Thursday that he was “deeply saddened by the suffering caused by last night's storm. People have died, houses have collapsed, basements have flooded, firefighters have died trying to help”.
“Together with many others, I pray for those affected and the helpers. At the same time, I am grateful for the help that is now being provided in a very practical way in our communities and churches: from neighbourly help with pumping out, to bread rolls and warm coffee, to pastoral support, for example through the emergency chaplaincy”, underlined Latzel.
In North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, believers are actively supporting the fight against the consequences of the flood disaster.
Sammy Wintersohl, Head of the Office for Press and Communication of the Protestant Church Association of Cologne, told Protestant news agency IDEA that in Erftstadt, near Cologne, Protestant full-time volunteer church workers are helping the rescue workers and caring for flood victims.
“The congregations are helping where they can. The situation on the ground is unclear”, he said. Some houses have been washed out and are in danger of collapsing, so that “emergency calls are coming in from the houses, but rescue is not possible in many cases”.
Meanwhile, the church communities in Erftstadt have opened their premises to provide exhausted disaster relief workers with soup and coffee, and in Bergheim, near Cologne, the Protestant church has accommodated a 50-member youth group, whose tent camp had been flooded, in its facilities.
In addition to the Protestant Church in the Rhineland and the Protestant Church of Westphalia, numerous church districts have appealed for prayers and donations for the victims of the floods and they are distributing food among those in need.