The severe storms have drawn a path of destruction through flood areas in Germany. After the flood, those affected and helpers begin with the clean-up work. 07/19/2021, clock
The brown mud is everywhere, cars are wedged between half-torn walls, houses have collapsed in whole or in part. After the severe storms and floods in parts of Rhineland-Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia and Belgium, the colossal clean-up work has begun in the affected areas. Thousands of firefighters, soldiers and other helpers were on duty at the weekend, whether with brooms and shovels or heavy equipment.
The district of Ahrweiler in the Vulkaneifel in the north of Rhineland-Palatinate is one of the worst affected areas, 117 dead have been recovered there so far. The search for missing relatives and possible deaths continues. Electricity and telephone networks are interrupted and many people are inaccessible. The sidewalks are full of broken furniture, residents trudge through the streets in rubber boots, determined to begin the enormous cleanup.
‘Many have lost everything they have built in their lives’
In North Rhine-Westphalia, the number of recovered fatalities on Monday was at least 46. There, too, the authorities continued to withhold information about missing people. The situation remained too confusing. Erftstadt, south of Cologne, was hit particularly badly. The Erft had overflowed, washed away houses and caused landslides. Parts of a historic castle collapsed. The Bundeswehr moved in with tanks on Saturday to clear roads.
‘Many have lost everything that they have built up all their lives,’ said Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier during a visit on site. ‘We mourn with those who have lost friends, acquaintances or family members. Your fate tears our hearts apart. ‘ Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) visited the particularly affected Eifel village of Schuld together with the Rhineland-Palatinate Prime Minister Malu Dreyer (SPD) on Sunday. Almost everything there has been destroyed.
And even if the clean-up work is progressing everywhere, the authorities have not yet given the all-clear, especially in cities like Passau. In Erftstadt-Blessem, according to experts, there is still an acute danger to life near a demolition edge, as District Administrator Frank Rock announced after a conversation with the local experts on Sunday. The stability of the subsoil in the particularly affected district must continue to be checked. In Blessem, the floods had created a huge crater, at least three residential buildings and part of the historic castle collapsed.
Dead and destruction in Belgium too
Belgium was also hit hard by the storms, especially the region around Liège. The flood disaster there cost the lives of at least 31 people, as the National Crisis Center announced on Sunday.
If the water goes back, ‘we will likely find catastrophic situations,’ warned Liege Mayor Christine Defraigne. The Meuse and numerous tributaries flow through the city and the province of the same name in eastern Belgium.
In Chaudfontaine it was the Vesdre that flooded houses, knocked down trees and covered the village with a layer of mud. There, the factory of the well-known chocolatier Galler fell victim to the masses of water. On Saturday, the smell of chocolate overshadowed the otherwise omnipresent modder smell.
There was no electricity yet. Turning it back on is the next step, ‘to see if the machines are still working,’ Gallers spokeswoman Valérie Stefenatto told AFP. The financial damage cannot be estimated yet, she added. After all, the chocolate manufacturer’s warehouse in Herstal, just under 15 kilometers away, was spared.