President of federal disaster relief organisation says she does not expect to find any more survivors

Residents clear debris in Bad Muenstereifel, Germany.
Residents clear debris after heavy rains caused flooding along the river Erft in the village of Bad Muenstereifel.Photograph: Sascha Steinbach/EPA

At least 155 people remain missing a week after record rainfall caused devastating floods in western Germany, as the president of the country’s disaster relief organisation said she “did not expect” rescuers to find any more survivors.

“We are currently still searching for missed ones as we are clearing debris or pumping out cellars,” said Sabine Lackner of the federal agency for technical relief, a volunteering organisation belonging to the German ministry of the interior.

“But sadly at this stage it is very likely that victims can only be recovered and not rescued,” Lackner told RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland.

A week after slow-moving weather system released two months’ worth of rain in two days over western Germany, the number of fatalities has risen to at least 171, of which 123 have been confirmed in the hilly Ahrweiler district in Rhineland-Palatinate. Another 764 people have been injured, and 155 people are still recorded as missing.

In the wine-growing Ahr valley and regions in neighbouring North-Rhine Westphalia approximately 40,000 people are believed to have been affected by the floods.

The catastrophic flash floods have left thousands of people in western Germany without access to drinking water, electricity and gas. The full extent of damage to the area’s infrastructure has only emerged since the waters fully subsided over the last few days.

Severe flooding causes devastation in Europe – video report


In Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, a spa town that serves as the capital of the Ahrweiler district, about 19,000 people are now without gas used to heat water and homes, after pipelines were wiped out along with the bridges to which they were attached.