At least 19 people have died and dozens are missing, according to regional officials, after heavy rains triggered flash floods in parts of Germany, damaging homes and disrupting transport.
The deaths reported on Thursday were in the states of North Rhine Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate.
In the small town of Schuld in Rhineland-Palatinate, four houses were swept away by rising floodwaters, while two others were partly washed away. Some 50 to 70 people are missing, the authorities said.
“There are people dead, there are people missing, there are many who are still in danger,” the governor of Rhineland-Palatinate state, Malu Dreyer, told the regional parliament. “We have never seen such a disaster. It’s really devastating.”
The full extent of the damage in the region was still unclear after many villages were cut off by floodwater and landslides that made roads impassable.
Video footage from Bad Neuenahr, about 60km (37 miles) northwest of Koblenz, showed cars and trucks strewn across streets and one sport-utility vehicle perched on a fence, a road blocked by wreckage and fallen trees as floodwaters receded.
Authorities in the western German region of Euskirchen said eight deaths had been reported there in connection with the floods. Rescue operations were hampered by the fact that phone and internet connections were down in parts of the county, which is southwest of Cologne.
“What you see here now is worse than after a bombing raid,” Rosa Lahagner, a resident of the historic spa town of Bad Muenstereifel, told The Associated Press news agency, adding that local businesses would face difficulties for years to come.
Another resident, Siegfried Berg, called it “an emergency like World War II”.
Officials said other five people had died in Ahrweiler county. Dozens more were trapped on the roofs of their houses awaiting rescue.
Authorities used inflatable boats and helicopters, and the German army deployed 200 soldiers to assist in the rescue operation.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed her shock at the scale of the catastrophe.
“I am shocked by the catastrophe that so many people in the flood areas have to endure,” Merkel said in a tweet, posted by her press spokesman. “My sympathy goes to the families of the dead and missing,” she said. “To the many tireless helpers and emergency workers, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”