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Firefighter dies as heavy rains and flooding worsens in Germany

Emergency crews airlift people to safety as flooding worsens in Babenhausen, June 1, 2024
Emergency crews airlift people to safety as flooding worsens in Babenhausen, June 1, 2024 Copyright Screenshot from EBU video 2024_10236138
Copyright Screenshot from EBU video 2024_10236138
By Euronews with EBU
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Flooding, high river levels and heavy rain led to the death of a firefighter and disrupted train travel in southern Germany on Sunday.

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The body of a firefighter was recovered after an inflatable watercraft carrying four firefighters capsized as they navigated floodwaters to bring residents to safety in the town of Pfaffenhofen, on the Ilm River in the southern Bavaria region.

A long-distance train derailed after the ground under a section of track collapsed near the town of Schwaebisch Gmund some 50 kilometres east of Stuttgart late on Saturday. The 185 passengers were uninjured.

German rail operator Deutsche Bahn warned of extensive cancellations and delays and told customers who postponed trips that their tickets would be honoured. Traffic was disrupted on routes including those from Munich to Berlin, Stuttgart and the Swiss city of Zurich.

Authorities in Germany have urged residents in the southern state of Bavaria to heed evacuation orders as flooding in some areas continues to worsen.

So far, six districts in the state have declared states of emergency and meteorologists are warning of more rain and thunderstorms still to come.

The district office in Fischach in the district of Augsburg urged people to leave their homes and avoid underground car parks and basements. Some people there had to be airlifted away by helicopter.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser urged residents to "absolutely take seriously any warning messages" from emergency teams, adding that compliance could save lives.

Germany's interior minister Nancy Faeser urges residents to heed emergency orders

Bavaria's state premier Markus Söder visited one affected area near Augsburg, northwest of Munich, where days of heavy rain has caused severe flooding.

"The situation is very dynamic. At the moment, the situation is very, very difficult, especially in the Swabian region around Augsburg and Unterallgäu, for example in Günzburg. The water levels continue to rise," he said.

He said emergency services were working in affected areas and that flooding had caused "enormous" damage but that not all parts of Bavaria have been flooded.

Personnel from the German Lifeguard Association have been deployed to evacuate residents by boat and tractors have also been used to move people.

There were similar scenes across the border in Switzerland with broiling waters at the point where the River Murg meets the Thur. Authorities there say the water level is 20 times higher than the monthly average.

Water levels rise at the point where the River Murg meets the Thur in Thurgau, Switzerland, June 1, 2024
Water levels rise at the point where the River Murg meets the Thur in Thurgau, Switzerland, June 1, 2024Screenshot from EBU 2024_10236079

The federal government says with more rain forecast, water levels are expected to rise again on Sunday.

"Since Friday afternoon, the Thurgau cantonal police have received around 150 reports of damage. Several fire brigades throughout the canton had to be called out to pump out cellars. Roads that were no longer passable also had to be closed," said spokesperson for the Thurgau police, Matthias Graf.

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