At least 33 dead and dozens missing after record rainfall

At least 33 people have died and many more are missing following severe floods in western Germany, police say.

The worst of the flooding has been in the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia, where buildings and cars have been washed away.

At least four people have died in neighbouring Belgium, while the Netherlands has also been badly hit.

It follows record rainfall in parts of western Europe that has caused major rivers to burst their banks.

Malu Dreyer, chief of the Rhineland-Palatinate state, described the flooding as a “catastrophe”.

“There are dead, missing and many people still in danger,” she said. “All of our emergency services are in action round the clock and risking their own lives.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is in the US ahead of a meeting with President Joe Biden, said she was “shocked by the disaster”.

At least 19 people died in the Ahrweiler district of Rhineland-Palatinate, after the Ahr river, which flows into the Rhine, burst its banks.

Police helicopters and hundreds of soldiers have been deployed to some areas to help stranded residents. Earlier, police said dozens of people were waiting on rooftops to be rescued.

Schools have been closed around the west of the country, while transport links have been severely disrupted.