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Rescue Crews Search For Missing In Wake Of Historic Germany Floods

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Rescue crews in Western Europe continue to search for survivors and victims of the deadly flooding there earlier this week. More than 160 people are confirmed dead, and hundreds more are unaccounted for. Several countries were affected, but by far the hardest-hit has been Germany. A number of communities there have been devastated, with roads washed out and hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed. Many residents whose homes are still standing can't get into them now as authorities keep people away for fear of mudslides. Spinghar Safi had that happen to him today. He is a resident of Erftstadt, a town near Cologne that suffered severe damage.

SPINGHAR SAFI: I tried today to go there and check if I can collect some documents and important things I have there. But the police told us that there is no water right now. But because of the heavy flooding, there is the danger of landsliding, that houses may slide down.

MARTIN: Safi and his three children were forced to evacuate their home on Thursday afternoon as the floodwaters rose. His wife was away at the time and wasn't allowed back into town by police. They've since been reunited, and the family is safe now, but the town is in ruins. Safi says police and firefighters continue to comb through what's left, looking for survivors.

SAFI: They fear that there are more than 30 cars which were stuck under flooding, and they fear that they will find more bodies as they search the cars. There were, I think, seven to 10 houses which have completely slide down to Earth. There was also an historic building that is also have slided. It's like you don't see anything there.

MARTIN: With so much destruction and so many still missing, Safi isn't sure how long it will take for things to get back to anything resembling normal again.

SAFI: I don't think it will be quick that the life gets to normality again. I have neighborhood friends. Their mom's house was down the street. And she was saying that she still has no contact to her mom, and she can't - she's not allowed to go there as the - those houses were mostly up to - second floor underwater. And hundreds are missing.

MARTIN: That was Spinghar Safi, who's town in western Germany was severely affected by heavy rain and massive floods this week. Safi told us he is originally from Afghanistan and that in the 15 years he's been living in Erftstadt, he has never experienced anything like what he's lived through this past week.

(SOUNDBITE OF RRAREBEAR'S "MOON") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.