image copyrightAFPimage captionMuch of Schuld has been reduced to debris

Germans have shared their horror at the speed with which floodwaters engulfed their homes and businesses, devastating many areas near the River Rhine.

Some compare the scale of devastation with the pounding that Germany endured in World War Two. And in a reminder of the war, the Germany army is using armoured vehicles to help clear away debris.

In the village of Schuld, in the Eifel region, the flash flood ripped buildings apart and tossed cars over, filling the streets with debris and thick layers of mud.

Tearful 76-year-old resident Marlene Wiechmann said the last time Schuld experienced such catastrophic flooding was in 1910. It was such a shock to the community that it became part of local folklore.

"Everything broken, swept away, it's a catastrophe," she told the public broadcaster SWR about Thursday's deluge.

"Our tennis courts were over there, the house of Stanni from Poland was over there," she said, pointing to a tangle of mud, smashed trees and wreckage.

'Very sad scene'

There were similar scenes in flooded towns and villages just west of Bonn, the former West German capital, where the Swist river burst its banks. It is a small tributary of the Rhine, but the torrential downpour made it lethal.

image copyrightAFPimage captionTowns near the old West German capital Bonn are among the worst hit

Gregor Jericho in Rheinbach told the BBC "it's a very sad scene: streets, bridges and some buildings are destroyed.

"There's garbage everywhere. Parts of buildings are in the road, people are sitting and crying. It's so sad. People have lost their homes, their cars are in flooded fields, my city looks like a battle has taken place."

He said a girl he knew in his street died when she was knocked down by a car and drowned. "My brother tried to help her and called an ambulance, but she was already dead."

He added: "We don't have floods like this – my grandfather even said he's never seen anything like this before".

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In nearby Heimerzheim witnesses told Deutsche Welle they had had just minutes to escape the torrent in the early hours of Thursday.

Uwe and Robert Gödecke and their dog Kuno managed to flee out of their kitchen window after the sound of the roaring flood woke them up. They were rescued by a German Red Cross motor boat – but all they managed to take with them was a wallet and some dog food.

"Everything came floating past us: the garden table, the beach chairs, the rubbish bin," Uwe said.

Germany's death toll has risen above 100, with hundreds more missing. There are victims in Belgium and the Netherlands too.

Torsten Clemens, acting head of the Swisttal volunteer fire brigade, said he had never before seen floodwaters rise so rapidly.

"We stood here quite dry and ten minutes later we were in ten centimetres of water," he said.

Quickly they realised that reaching people stuck in their homes would be impossible in the fire engines, "as people couldn't even drive their own cars to safety", he said.

media captionHelicopter rescues residents stranded on rooftops in Merzbach

Rescue helicopters have been plucking survivors from rooftops.

In many affected areas mobile phone signals and landlines have been knocked out of action.

Further south, in Altenahr, a woman told Reuters news agency of her panic after seeing a social media post from her daughter. "She described being 'submerged', her flat was submerged. I've tried calling her since about eight o'clock last night and still didn't know until 15 minutes ago how she was doing, how my grandchild was doing."

The industrial Ruhr region in North Rhine-Westphalia has also been badly hit.

Philipp Huckenbeck, who lives near the city of Wuppertal, told the BBC that a nearby stream had become a monster on Wednesday night.

He said the Heilenbecke – which eventually joins the Ruhr – "is usually a small creek, which is maximum 20cm high, but in the space of hours it rose to up to 5m high".

"They had to evacuate everyone. Luckily the dog was upstairs and didn't drown, as she was locked in the house and the fire department couldn't get there due to the masses of water. Most of the machines in the factory are completely damaged," he said.