Thousands evacuated as daunting floods recovery effort begins – amid fears dam may still be breached
At least 170 people have now died following “historic” flooding across Germany and Belgium – with fears the death toll could keep rising.
The search and rescue operation is continuing as the deadly flood waters recede and debris is cleared.
Days of torrential downpours left rivers severely overflowing, leading to waters surging through streets – lifting up cars, tearing up power lines and collapsing homes and businesses.
At least 143 people have died as a result of the flooding in western Germany, with officials telling the public that the risk is not yet receding with the floodwaters.
In Belgium, where at least 27 people have died, dykes along a river are threatening to collapse.
Large parts of a dam near Cologne in the North Rhine-Westphalia region, which is Germany’s most populous, have broken away and there is “enormous pressure” on the structure because of the high water level, posing “an acute risk” the dam could rupture. More people have been evacuated from the area.
Pictures from across the region – one of the most prosperous in Europe – show homes destroyed and businesses devastated. Astonishing footage from near Frankfurt shows an entire house being carried down the River Ahr.
Sky News visited one area of North Rhine-Westphalia where police are patrolling to ensure people have left their homes amid fears a nearby dam could collapse and consume hundreds of houses.
And officers have also warned people in the Ahrweiler area to be wary of downed power lines, and are asking visitors to stay away as sightseers have blocked roads.
Parts of the town of Erfstadt have been cut off for days, with a huge sinkhole making the rescue operation more difficult.
Residents have been transported out of the area, many left with nothing on the back of flat bed lorries, and have been forced to queue for €200 handouts so they can buy basic amenities.
State minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet, said: “Hundreds of people are willing to drop everything and help us on the ground, so I want to thank all those volunteers. Germany will do everything possible over the next couple of days to organise the funds necessary.”
Meteorologists said some areas of western Europe had received two months’ rain in two days ahead of the floods, with more than 150 litres per square metre falling over 24 hours in parts of western Germany.
Several senior officials have blamed climate change for the disaster.
“Climate change isn’t abstract anymore. We are experiencing it up close and painfully,” said Malu Dreyer, governor of Rhineland-Palatinate state.
She said it showed the need to speed up action on the issue.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also said it showed that decisive action was the only way “to limit the extreme weather conditions we are now experiencing”.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has been in the US but will visit Rhineland-Palatinate – one of the worst affected villages – on Sunday.
Turkey election: President Erdogan declared winner with more than 52% of vote
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won the presidential run-off election, with leaders from around the world congratulating him.
With 99% of the votes counted, Mr Erdogan, who served as prime minister from 2003 to 2014, won with a share of 52.1%.
It means he has secured a record-breaking third term as president and will serve at least five more years in power.
Turkey election latest
Erdogan thanks crowds as election officials declare him winner
Polls closed at 5pm local time (3pm BST) and while votes were counted fast, for hours it remained too close to call. At one point, less than a percentage point separated the incumbent from his rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
Shortly after 8pm local time (6pm BST) Mr Erdogan stepped out of his home and thanked people for “giving us the responsibility to rule for the next five years”.
He has been congratulated by a host of world leaders. Among them, Vladimir Putin, who wrote a lengthy message to Mr Erdogan, which concluded: “From the bottom of my heart I wish you new successes in such a responsible activity as the head of state, as well as good health and well-being.”
French President Emmanuel Macron also sent well-wishes, as well as reiterating the “immense challenges” both countries face.
“The return of peace to Europe, the future of our Euro-Atlantic Alliance, the Mediterranean Sea,” he tweeted.
“With President Erdogan, whom I congratulate on his re-election, we will continue to move forward.”
Opponent refuses to admit defeat
Kemal Kilicdaroglu took the stage earlier this evening, and in a rousing speech, he refused to admit defeat.
“I wasn’t able to defend your rights,” Kilicdaroglu began by saying. “I did not shirk against an unjust structure, I could not be a silent devil and I was not.
“I could not stand quiet against millions of people becoming second-class citizens in this country.
“I could not let them stand all over your rights. For your children to go to bed hungry. For farmers to not to be able to produce. I could not allow these things.”
He concluded by thanking the 25 million people who voted for him – and says the “battle continues”.
First presidential run-off in Turkey’s history
The pair were forced to go head to head when neither reached the required 50% of the vote in the first round on 14 May and Mr Erdogan’s win will have profound consequences for Turkey, and the wider world.
The two candidates offered sharply different visions of the country’s future and its recent past.
Mr Erdogan’s government vetoed Sweden’s bid to join NATO and purchased Russian missile-defense systems, which prompted the United States to oust Turkey from a US-led fighter-jet project. But it also helped broker a crucial deal that allowed Ukrainian grain shipments and averted a global food crisis.
Meanwhile, Mr Erdogan’s 74-year-old challenger promised to restore a more democratic society.
Sudan conflict: Pregnant woman and baby killed in shooting – but husband left unaware
Men in crisp white thobes sit on mats under a leafy thorn tree carefully cutting pieces of white material.
They slowly stitch them together with tender, experienced precision.
Another shroud for another life lost to senseless violence.
More men arrive and they raise their hands in prayer to grieve the recently deceased.
The latest victim of the militias terrorising their community lies in a two room morgue a few metres away.
Fatma was eight months pregnant and travelling on a cart with her young son and daughter to Hajr Hadeed in eastern Chad.
She left her husband in the violence of al Geneina, the state capital of West Darfur in Sudan, where fleeing residents are reporting a citywide massacre.
Fatma’s sister Zeinab says her five-year-old nephew El-Sheikh was holding his pregnant mother’s body when the cart arrived in the village.
She rushed with close relatives to Adre Central Hospital.
They could feel the heaviness of Fatma’s body, but held out hope that the baby in her belly was still alive.
Hospital workers were cleaning the blood from the floor when they arrived at Dr Mahmoud Adam’s office.
He said Fatma was dead when she arrived and was quickly able to ascertain that the baby too had died.
“Since the war in Khartoum started so many wounded civilians are passing through the border from Darfur,” said Dr Mahmoud, whose hospital now has treatment tents operated by the medical aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in its grounds.
He recalls the 2003 genocide and observes there is little difference between then and now.
“It is so sad that to see people dying and suffering like this,” he said.
We walk over to the morgue where Fatma lies covered on a cement slab.
“She was shot in the back of the head,” he said.
Dr Mahmoud believes she died instantly.
Read more on Sudan crisis:
Scale of destruction in before and after images
The fighting explained
Zeinab sits under a tree just outside the morgue building.
Her eyes are wet and wide and every couple of minutes she muffles her sobs with her dark tobe.
Fatma’s small children lie silently across her lap.
More family arrive from their village as the body is prepared for burial.
Zeinab is handed different phones as family from across the region call to extend their condolences.
One call that doesn’t come is from Fatma’s husband Adam in al Geneina where telecommunications have been down for more than a week.
The only information from there is coming from the fleeing residents who have safely made it across the violence-ridden region.
The city ‘is on fire’
They say the city is on fire and that there are too many deaths to count.
Deep in the al Geneina blackout, Adam is still unaware that his wife and unborn child have been killed.
No one can reach him to deliver the news.
Fatma emerges from the morgue wrapped in the white shroud.
She’s lifted onto the back of a military grade Toyota pick-up by the men from her family as wailing rings out from the crowd of women.
Dread and panic
The cries carry more than just loss, but notes of dread and panic.
The fearful anticipation that there is more grief to come.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay rules out new pay offer for nurses despite ‘constructive’ meeting with RCN chief
Health Secretary Steve Barclay held a “constructive” meeting with Royal College of Nursing (RCN) chief Pat Cullen – but made clear that a new pay offer for nurses will not be forthcoming.
Ms Cullen previously recommended the members of her union accept the deal agreed with the government, but it was rejected by members.
However, the offer was imposed because a majority of the NHS Staff Council body wanted to take the deal – despite the opposition from the RCN.
‘Manifestly wrong’ for MPs to claim driving fines back on expenses
Speaking to Trevor Phillips, who was hosting Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Sky News, Mr Barclay was asked about a recent summit with Ms Cullen.
He said they “had a very constructive meeting this week” – but described what was offered previously and accepted by the NHS Staff Council as a “full and final” offer.
This offer amounted to a 5% pay rise, plus a cash top-up.
Currently, the RCN is balloting over whether to take further strike action, with close to 30,000 members taking part in the vote.
Ms Cullen said previously: “Once again, we have been forced to ask our members if they want to take to the picket lines in their fight for fair pay.
“This is unfinished business and the government can get it resolved without the need for more strike action.”
The cost of living crisis saw the RCN take part in nationwide industrial action across England for the first time in its history.
After other health unions also took action, Unison, GMB, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists and the Royal College of Midwives were all among those who in the end voted to accept the pay increase offered by the government.
Demands aren’t ‘legally possible’
Speaking about the deal, Mr Barclay told Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “It means a band six, entry-level nurse gets over £5,000 over the two years – recognising the huge, valuable contribution that NHS staff have made.
“Now what some in the RCN are asking us to do isn’t legally possible.
“It’s not possible to give a band six nurse different pay to a band six midwife or a band six paramedic.”
Unite was another union which rejected the government’s offer.
Members at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London, and the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, last week announced they would be downing tools on 1 June – and junior doctors will be walking out for 72 hours on 14 June.
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The RCN leadership is encouraging its members to vote in favour of strikes.
While Mr Barclay said the pay element of the deal is closed, there is room for talks about issues like violence against staff and pension abatement, he added.
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