AT LEAST 153 have been killed in Germany and Belgium in the worst floods in decades – with over 1,000 people still reported as missing.
Emergency workers are in a race against time as they try to rescue people in danger amid mounting concerns of a fresh disaster as more freak rain storms are forecast.
German media has dubbed the national disaster a "flood of death" with at least 133 dead so far across the country.
Police said that more than 90 people are now known to have died in western Germany's Ahrweiler county – one of the worst-hit areas.
Authorities gave a death toll of 63 for the whole of Rhineland-Palatinate state on Friday, and another 43 were confirmed dead in the North Rhine-Westphalia state.
And in Belgium, the death toll has reached 20 as emergency workers scramble to find survivors amid the debris.
Now there are fears the unfolding disaster could get even worse – with thousands of people already left homeless.
Germany's DWD meteorologists are predicting further "extreme storms" in the western and central parts of Germany, with peak rainfall possibly reaching 200 litres per square metre.
This has threatened to raise the mighty Rhine river to dangerous levels.
And people living below the Steinbach reservoir, south of Cologne, have been told to flee amid warnings the dam could burst.
FEARS DAMS COULD BURST
One dam close to the Belgium border, the Rurtalsperre, is at risk while another, the Steinbachtalsperre, is on the brink of collapsae
Already, entire communities lay in ruins after swollen rivers swept through towns and villages.
About 1,300 people were missing in the Ahrweiler district south of Cologne, the district government said.
In the village of Schuld, Hans-Dieter Vrancken, 65, said: "Caravans, cars were washed away, trees were uprooted, houses were knocked down.
"We have lived here in Schuld for over 20 years and we have never experienced anything like it. It's like a war zone."
Mobile phone networks have collapsed in some of the flood-stricken regions, which means that family and friends were unable to track down their loved ones.
Police have asked people to share footage and pictures of the floods to help them locate the missing as hundreds of soldiers were deployed to aid authorities.
Regional interior minister Roger Lewentz told broadcaster SWR: "When you haven’t heard for people for such a long time … you have to fear the worst.”
"The number of victims will likely keep rising in the coming days."
Chancellor Merkel dubbed the dire weather "a catastrophe" ahead of a meeting in Washington with US President Joe Biden.
She told a press conference: "Heavy rainfall and floods are very inadequate words to describe this — it is therefore really a catastrophe.
"I fear that we will only see the full extent of the disaster in the coming days."
The unprecedented weather has created a perilous situation elsewhere in Western Europe, seeing thousands forced to evacuate as homes collapse and cars are swept away by floodwaters.
Thousands of homes have been evacuated in the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland as raging rivers burst their banks.
'MORE EXTREME STORMS ON WAY'
France, Italy, and Australia have sent a flood rescue team to help overwhelmed Belgian authorities, as the government of the country's Wallonia region granted €2.5 billion in emergency aid.
Two German firefighters died during rescue operations in the North Rhine Westphalia towns of Altena and Werdohl, with one drowning and another dying of a heart attack, the Telegraph reports.
In Leverkusen, 468 people were evacuated from a hospital after floods cut off power, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
In Erftstadt, southwest of Cologne, 50 people were rescued after the ground beneath their homes collapsed, official Frank Rock told local broadcasters.
Expressing her dismay on Twitter, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "I am shocked by the disaster that has affected so many people.
"My condolences go out to the relatives of the dead and missing. I thank the many tireless helpers and emergency services from the bottom of my heart."
🔵 Read our Germany floods blog for the very latest updates
North Rhine Westphalia leader Armin Laschet, who is running to succeed Merkel in September elections, cancelled a party meeting in Bavaria to survey the damage in his state, which is one of Germany's most populous.
"We will stand by the towns and people who've been affected," Laschet, clad in rubber boots, told reporters in the town of Hagen.
Prince William and Kate also shared a message of support on Friday.
"The damage and loss caused by the flooding disaster in Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands is devastating. We are thinking of all those affected by these floods," they said in a statement.
Large chunks of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine Westphalia are under water while villages in Belgium's Liege and Wallonia provinces were being evacuated due to rising river levels.
Belgium news outlet VRT NWS quoted the mayor of Pepinster, a small town of around 10,000 people in the Liege province, who said dozens of houses collapsed along the Vesdre River that flows through the area.
In the town of Chaudfontaine, daily Le Soir reported that nearly 1,800 people had to evacuate while 250 people in Moelingen were forced to leave their homes overnight.
One woman told Belgian TV station VTM News: "The emergency services advised us not to wait until tomorrow morning and to get out immediately.
"The house is completely full of water."
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