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Floods in Germany turned streams into raging torrents on Thursday as cars were swept away and houses collapsed in the western states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia due to severe inundation. The official death toll in the disaster is estimated at somewhere around 45, while news agencies independently reporting on the floods indicated that the actual number might be several counts higher.

In Germany's Cologne area alone, at least 20 to 30 people are estimated to have lost their lives in the floods, while 28 more reportedly died in the Ahrweiler district in Rhineland-Palatinate, according to the Die Welt daily, which cited local police records on the floods.  As many as 50 to 70 people are estimated missing following the floods, said interior minister Roger Lewentz.

Among the German villages worst hit by the flood was Schuld, where several homes collapsed and dozens of people remained unaccounted for. Some villages were reduced to rubble as old brick and timber houses couldn't withstand the sudden rush of water, often carrying trees and other debris as it gushed through narrow streets. Even rescue operations took a hit, reported the Associated Press, due to blocked roads and internet outages across the Eifel, a volcanic region of rolling hills and small valleys.

The floods in Germany also affected neighbouring Belgium, where the Vesdre River spilt over its banks and sent water churning through the streets of Pepinster, near Liege, where a rescue operation by firefighters went wrong when a small boat capsized and three elderly people disappeared. 'Unfortunately, they were quickly engulfed,' said Mayor Philippe Godin. 'I fear they are dead.'

The Meuse River in Liege, a city with a population of 200,000, also overflowed its banks and authorities urged people to shift to higher ground. In Verviers, too, several bodies -- victims of the flood -- were found, but the prosecutor's office could not come up with an exact death toll in the incident.

The full extent of the damage was still unclear, with many villages cut off by floods and landslides that made roads impassable. Many of the dead were only discovered after floodwaters receded.
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