MEERSSEN, The Netherlands, July 16 (Reuters) - Hundreds of people fled their homes in and around the southern Dutch town of Meerssen after floods broke through a dyke on Friday, as rising waters left a path of destruction across the region.
Emergency services said the flood waters were about to swamp the surrounding villages of Bunde, Voulwames, Brommelen and Geulle. Sirens sounded and drone footage showed water flowing into streets and homes.
"Immediately leave your home and get to safety," the emergency services said in an online alert. "There is a large hole in the dyke." Families were told to turn off their electricity and gas supplies.
The flooding was expected to impact about 3,000 people, local emergency services spokeswoman Samantha Wisniewski said.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte declared the flooding in Limburg province a national disaster. Hundreds of firefighters and soldiers were deployed to help reinforce dikes and evacuate residents.
Water levels on the Meuse and the Rur reached record levels on Thursday, surpassing those that led to large floods in 1993 and 1995, local authorities said.
Floods were expected to peak in northern Limburg province on Friday afternoon, prompting the evacuation of a hospital in the town of Venlo, local emergency services said.
In Valkenburg, in the far south of Limburg close to the Belgian and German border, floods engulfed the town centre, forcing the evacuation of several nursing homes and destroying at least one bridge. (Reporting by Andrew Heavens)
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.