By Stefan J. Bos
Record rainfall has caused rivers to burst their banks,
devastating parts here in the Netherlands as well as in neighboring Belgium and Germany.
Heavy flooding caused by days of rainfall turned streams and streets into raging torrents throughout the region, sweeping away cars and causing some buildings to collapse.
Hospitals, care centers, and hospices were among those sites being evacuated.
For many, help has come too late. Across the border in Germany, more than 100 people died in devastating l western Germany.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was "stunned" by the devastation caused by the flooding.
He pledged support to the families of those killed and to cities and towns facing significant damage. Steinmeier said that "in this hour of need, the country stands together and that it was important to show solidarity for those from whom the flood has taken everything."
In neighboring, North Rhine-Westphalia state officials put the death toll at 43 but warned that the figure could rise further.
Rescuers were rushing Friday to help people trapped in their homes in the town of Erftstadt, southwest of Cologne.
Regional authorities said several people had died after their houses collapsed due to subsidence, and aerial pictures showed what appeared to be a massive sinkhole.
Authorities said late Thursday that about 1,300 people in Germany were still listed missing. However, they cautioned that the high figure could be due to duplication of data and difficulties reaching people because of disrupted roads and phone connections.
There were also similar scenes of devastation in Belgium, where a dozen others died. Here in the Netherlands, a low-lying seafaring nation, the southern province of Limburg was particularly hard hit.
Dutch authorities declared the south of Limburg a disaster area, with security forces evacuating several regions.
Dutch King Willem Alexander expressed his concern.
With queen Maxima standing at his side, he said his "thoughts go out to those struggling with the rising waters in Limburg." He also remembers the many victims in Germany and Belgium."
Hundreds of soldiers were involved in the massive operation as the nation faces the worst flooding in years. Many homes were flooded here. The devastation has renewed a debate about climate change.
It also underscored questions about the future of a growing number of people living in low-lying areas, near rivers or below sea level.