Officials say billions more will be needed to rebuild homes, businesses and roads as Berlin deals with one of the worst floods in decades.

The deluge swept away homes and businesses in different German towns, causing billions of dollars in damages.
The deluge swept away homes and businesses in different German towns, causing billions of dollars in damages. (AP)

Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet approved a $470 million emergency aid package for flood-stricken regions of Germany and said billions more would be needed to rebuild homes, businesses and vital infrastructure.

The announcement on Wednesday comes a week into the region's worst flooding disaster in living memory, which has killed at least 170 in Germany and 31 more in Belgium. 

Half of the relief amount will come from the federal government of Europe's top economy and the rest from the 16 regional states, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said.

"We will make sure that life can go on," Scholz told reporters in Berlin.

He said the coming months would bring a "billions-strong reconstruction programme to clear the devastation and restore infrastructure" including roads, bridges and railways.

Merkel's government is facing criticism for failing to inform people about the floods and make necessary evacuations. 

The damage caused by the floods is likely to cost the insurance industry up to $5.9 billion, the GDV insurance industry association said, calling the disaster "one of the most devastating storms in recent history".

READ MORE: Merkel visits 'surreal' flood zone as death toll rises

However, the real cost is likely to be much higher as less than half of Germans in the affected states are insured against heavy rain and floods, the association said.

Merkel had vowed on a visit to the badly hit medieval town of Bad Muenstereifel on Tuesday that Berlin would come through to help in the short and long term.

Victims 'left with nothing' 

"This was flooding that surpassed our imagination when you see the destruction it wrought," the chancellor told reporters after touring what the Bild daily called the "apocalyptic " wreckage of the 17,000-strong community in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state.

Merkel, who is retiring this year after 16 years in power, said her government would do everything in its power "so that the money is with people fast".

"I hope it will be a matter of days," she said, noting that she had met local victims "left with nothing but the clothes on their backs".

READ MORE: Rescuers search for Germany flood survivors as death toll climbs

On Wednesday the regional government in Belgium's hard-hit Wallonia pledged more than $2 billion in reconstruction aid after what it called "unprecedented" destruction from the floods.

The deluge has swept away houses and businesses just months before the September 26 general election in which Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union is once again trying to win the chancellor’s post. 

A total of 121 people are now confirmed to have died in the flooding in Rhineland-Palatinate state, with at least 48 victims in NRW and one in Bavaria.

At least 31 people also died in Belgium, with 53 people still missing. 

"We are still looking for missing people as we clear roads and pump out cellars," the vice president of Germany's THW civil protection agency, Sabine Lackner, told media group Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.

"However by now it is unfortunately very likely that we will only be able to recover victims, not rescue them."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies