Flooding has put “enormous pressure” on a dam that could now break with the death toll already at 168 from the extreme weather centred across Germany and Belgium.
Emergency workers are searching for more survivors from the freak floods that have badly hit the North Rhine-Westphalia area and caused mass destruction.
Homes have been swept away and cars submerged under water but while the task of cleaning up has started, officials are also warning that the danger is not yet over.
Large parts of a dam near Cologne have fallen away putting “enormous pressure” on it and there is an “acute risk” that the dam could break with people evacuated from the area as a precaution.
Shocking images of the destruction even include a whole house being swept along down the River Ahr, near Frankfurt.
So far at least 141 people have died in Germany and as the debris is removed, rescue teams are expecting to find more bodies.
Another 43 people are also known to have died in Belgium and another 20 people are missing.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was “stunned” by the disaster.
Rhine-Westphalia state premier Armin Laschet reportedly said: “The floods have literally pulled the ground from beneath many people’s feet. They lost their houses, farms or businesses.”
In Erftstadt, close to Cologne, 50 people were rescued after the ground underneath their homes collapsed, said official Frank Rock, according to local reports.
Pictures show a massive landslide at a gravel pit and it is expected that not everyone survived.
“One has to assume that under the circumstances some people didn’t manage to escape,” added Rock.