Twelve people drowned after being trapped in a disabled care facility as the waters rose in the German town of Sinzig, Rhineland-Palatinate.
The victims, who lived in the home and suffered from “severe disabilities” according to German media, were trapped when the Ahr river broke its banks and quickly engulfed the town overnight on Thursday.
As houses were swept away in the freak floods, the alarm was raised at numerous care homes threatened by rising waters across Germany and Belgium.
The nightwatchman overseeing the Sinzig facility rushed residents onto the top floor.
But it was too late for 13 of them, who were announced missing. Just one was found alive.
A spokesman for Lebenshilfe, the organisation responsible for running the home, said the ground floor of the building filled up with water quickly and with such force that residents did not have a chance to escape.
Residents on the upper floors were kept locked inside for several hours and have now been moved to hotels or to stay with family.
Psychologists were brought in to help traumatised employees and residents.
Stefan Möller, the managing director of the facility, told German newspaper Bild that the victims were being monitored but that the water rose too quickly for them to be evacuated.
“The residents were not alone. We had a nightwatchman in the neighbouring house,” he said.
“At the request of the fire brigade, the building was to be evacuated. But when the employee came over (to evacuate), the tidal wave came – he couldn’t get out and couldn’t help. It’s terrible. Our employees are traumatised, but they still help as best they can.
“They are also in the process of looking after the other residents in Neuwied.”
A retirement home in the same village housing around 100 people also became inundated and was evacuated late on Wednesday, German media reported.
Care homes in the Netherlands and Belgium were evacuated on Thursday as the torrent of muddy water continued downstream.
As of Saturday morning, the floods had claimed more than 150 lives in several towns and villages across western Germany, with hundreds more missing.
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