Four people are dead, including a firefighter and a teenage girl, after heavy rains in south-western Germany overnight into Monday brought some of the worst flooding to the region in years.

Police confirmed that the bodies of the firefighter and a man he was trying to rescue had been found in Schwaebisch Gmuend, which lies in the flood-hit state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

A 21-year-old had been swept into a railway tunnel by a rush of water and sucked into a manhole, police said. The 38-year-old fire safety officer went to his rescue, but both men were sucked down the drain.

Their bodies were found several hours later.

In nearby Schorndorf, a 13-year-old girl who had sought shelter from the downpour under a railway bridge was struck by a train and killed, police said.

A 12-year-old boy who was with her was unharmed, but is receiving psychiatric support after the incident.

Police in the town of Weissbach said a 62-year-old man died when water flooded his basement "in a matter of seconds."

Other residents of the house were also in the basement but managed to escape in time.

For some areas, it was the worst flooding seen in two decades, with rainfall reaching up to and above 100 litres per square metre.

Parts of an Audi factory in the town of Neckarsulm were under water, halting production at the facility, a spokeswoman for the company said.

Fire safety employees at the carmaker's factory have been attempting to remove the water, she said. It remains unclear when production will resume at the site, which is located directly on a canal off the Neckar river.

The heavy downpours also affected the state of Bavaria in the south-east, causing severe damage to properties in the area around Nuremberg.

Several residents in the Bavarian town of Frankenhoehe described the scenes as "like after the war."

In Baden-Wuerttemberg alone, around 7,000 people responded to more than 2,200 calls for help between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, the state Interior Ministry in Stuttgart said. The emergency response saw firefighters, police, civil service personnel, Red Cross workers and volunteers work through the night.

The ministry said the number of injured in Baden-Wuerttemberg remained less than 10.

One house was destroyed and several others heavily damaged in the small town of Braunsbach when a river burst its banks.

Videos and photographs posted on social media showed cars being carried away by the current. One vehicle appeared to slam into the side of a local business as it was swept away by a deluge of murky water.

A meteorologist at the German Weather Service (DWD) said the unusually slow movement of the rainstorms had led to the severe flooding.

"The unusual thing about yesterday was that we were in a situation of relatively low pressure," Martin Jonas said. "For that reason, the intensive downpours stayed above the same areas for a relatively long time."

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