The heavy rain that began on Wednesday has not gone away, but the death and destruction it has brought to Europe is already extraordinary. In Germany it had taken 93 lives by Friday, with hundreds of people still missing. Belgium has seen at least a dozen deaths.
Images from throughout Europe, and particularly Germany, show sinkholes that swallowed up houses and buildings. Streets lined with once tidy houses and shops have been disemboweled, their sewer and utility lines now exposed. Cars were carried away by torrents of water and deposited upside down or upended against trees. Homes have been emptied out, their contents mixed into oozing mud pits.
The raging rivers have also swept away cellphone towers and fiber optic cables, further hampering rescue efforts and efforts to locate people reported as missing.
Even some of the dikes that have long protected Holland have been overcome by water levels not seen since before the outbreak of World War I.
Germany appears to have suffered the worst of the death and damage from out-of-control rivers. Officials in the Ahrweiler district of Rhineland-Palatinate, the site of the village of Schuld, said late on Thursday that 1,300 people were unaccounted for after the Ahr River tore through communities. The grim expectation is that many of the missing have not survived.
The surging waters of the Erft River claimed three houses and part of a castle in Erftstadt-Blessemtown on Friday. Residents who had not already fled or who had ignored emergency orders and returned to see what was left of their properties were stranded and had to be rescued by boat.
Throughout the affected parts of Germany, thousands of people are now homeless.
Politicians from all parties are calling for election campaigns in Germany to be suspended.
The flooding came the same week that Europe unveiled its ambitious plan for moving away from fossil fuels to mitigate climate change and become carbon neutral by 2050. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s president, was among the many who linked the devastation to the need to deal with climate change.
“Only when we take action against climate change can we keep the events that we are now experiencing within limits,” he said.
Photos from the devastated areas show how far beyond those limits the flooding has reached.
A once bustling shopping street in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany, has become a dump for flood-damaged merchandise.
The destruction in parts of the Blessem district of Erftstadt, Germany, is complete.
The Aare turned an outdoor dining patio in Bern, Switzerland, into a pond.
A damaged bridge over the Ahr in Schuld, Germany.
One wheel is the only clear hint that a vehicle is entombed under mud and debris in Schuld.
A tree caught another car when it was swept along by floodwaters in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler.
Its ballast undermined by water, the rails of tracks in Jemelle, Belgium, took on the appearance of a roller coaster.
A church and cemetery after flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler.
Schuld, one of the most devastated towns in Germany, lay in ruins on Friday.
The surviving buildings of Schuld are now surrounded by debris from the structures the Ahr swept away.
With water levels at heights not seen since 1911, parts of the Netherlands have flooded, including Wessem.
Floodwaters stranded a train just short of a station in Kordel, Germany.
People turned to inflatable rafts in Liège, Belgium, after the Meuse River broke its banks.
The Ahr sweeping past the destruction it bought to Insul, Germany.
A campground in Roermond, Netherlands, lies submerged.
Only a large truck and a front-end loader were able to travel on some of the streets in Valkenburg, Netherlands.
A lookout at Lake Lucerne, Switzerland, became part of the lake itself.