More than 1,000 were feared to be missing as floods devastated West Germany

The death toll from heavy flooding in West Germany has risen to 81 Friday and more than 1,000 people are missing in one of the country’s most destructive natural disasters in years.

Officials in the Ahrweiler district, south of Cologne, said about 1,300 people appeared missing since Thursday evening. Cellular networks are declining, however, making it difficult to count the missing.

“Due to the complex damage situation, a final assessment of the situation is not yet possible,” the district government wrote on its website.

Torrential rains on Thursday caused flooded river waters to wash away in numerous districts in the German regions of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate. Transport networks have been blocked in some areas, while houses have been blocked in the Erfstadt district, outside Cologne.

Germany’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer, told the newspaper Spiegel that the government will seek to offer financial support to hard-hit districts as soon as possible.

“Throughout my political career in Germany I have never seen a flood with such terrible consequences, with so many deaths and disappearances,” Seehofer said. “No one can seriously doubt that this catastrophe is linked to climate change.”

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