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More than 180 dead in European floods; Merkel surveys 'surreal' damage

More than 180 dead in European floods; Merkel surveys 'surreal' damage
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday described the destruction as "surreal" as she surveys impacted by flooding in Western Europe that has killed more than 180 people. Photo by Sascha Steinbach/EPA-EFE

July 18 (UPI) -- More than 180 people have died following devastating flooding in Western Europe as leaders surveyed the damage on Sunday.

At least 157 people have died in Germany, including 110 in the western state of Rhin-Palatinate, while another 27 people have died in Belgium.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the town of Schuld, where the Ahr river swept away entire homes and described the destruction as "surreal" on Sunday.

"It is shocking -- I can almost say that the German language doesn't have words for the devastation," she said.

Merkel pledged the government would provide financial aid quickly and would also "focus policymaking more on climate protection than we have in recent years."

Belgium's national Crisis Center said the situation in the country was gradually improving as it continues to search for victims and some in the hardest-hit areas lacked drinking water.

"The enormous devastation caused by the floods is gradually being revealed and clean-up operations have begun, with the help of many volunteers," the center said.

Floodwaters also rushed through the town of Hallen in Austria, sweeping up cars and debris, but no fatalities were reported as of Sunday morning.

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