‘The suffering never ends,’ says Malu Dreyer about the flood disaster in Rhineland-Palatinate. The situation remains tense, the extent of the destruction becoming clearer and clearer.
Water masses undermine houses, buildings collapse, slide down, people die: the flood disaster in western Germany brings chaos, devastation and suffering. Its extent cannot yet be estimated.
One thing is clear: more than 100 people have lost their lives in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate. It is feared that the numbers will continue to rise. Numerous people are missing. Many, many others are faced with the ruins of their very existence.
In Erftstadt in North Rhine-Westphalia, houses are being swept away and disappearing. People die in the collapses. The flood came quickly, says District Administrator Frank Rock (CDU). Sinks would have been under water within ten minutes. There was hardly any time to warn people. Landslides of enormous proportions can be seen from the air. There are huge holes in the ground. ‘It’s a catastrophic situation like we’ve never had here before,’ says the district administrator.
Emergency calls come from the town not far from Cologne again and again. The rescue work is difficult: people are rescued by boats from the water. The situation is confusing. According to TV reports, people try to attract rescuers by shouting. He still has no concrete number of fatalities or missing, says Rock.
From the air you can see that large parts of the community are almost completely under water. After the extremely heavy rain, the river Erft overflowed its banks. Nearby, parts of the closed Autobahn 1 plunge into the river.
23 cities and districts in North Rhine-Westphalia are affected by floods. The Rurtalsperre had started to overflow around midnight due to the immense amounts of rain. At least there is some all-clear here. The Eifel-Rur water association speaks of a ‘low dynamic’. North Rhine-Westphalia’s Prime Minister Armin Laschet says: ‘The dams of the dams in North Rhine-Westphalia, with the exception of the Steinbach dam, are stable and undamaged.’ The dam threatens to break through at the Steinbach dam in the Euskirchen district. Several villages in the area of the lake were therefore evacuated.
Laschet (CDU) speaks of a ‘flood disaster of historic proportions’. It is to be feared that the number of victims will continue to rise. ‘The floods literally pulled the ground away from under the feet of many people.’
The pictures make the power of the forces of nature clear: where there was a shopping street, a river suddenly flows. Vehicles lie in the landscape like toys tossed around. Some houses are half washed away like houses of cards – or have disappeared. Many households are still without electricity, places cannot be reached, and rail traffic is extremely restricted.
In many places in Rhineland-Palatinate, the clean-up work has begun. People cleared their belongings from the mud. The horror in the country is great. ‘The suffering never ends,’ said the Rhineland-Palatinate Prime Minister Malu Dreyer (SPD) when visiting the control center of the professional fire brigade in Trier on Friday morning. Since the water is receding everywhere, people are now found who drowned in the disaster. «And then you could really only cry. It’s a horror, ”says Dreyer. There are more than 60 victims. According to Interior Minister Roger Lewentz (SPD), up to 100 people are assumed to be missing.
In the Ahr valley, which was particularly hard hit by the flood disaster, helicopters and boats are still on the move, rescuing people. The helpers repeatedly find dead people in the brown waters and rescue them.
In Sinzig, for example, twelve residents of a facility for disabled people can no longer save themselves and die on Thursday. “The water reached the ceiling of the first floor within a minute,” says Matthias Mandos, the managing director of the Rhineland-Palatinate regional association for life support. The night watch still managed to bring several residents to the first floor of the dormitory on the Ahr. ‘When he wanted to get the next one, he was already too late.’
Thousands of helpers are out and about in both countries. In North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, soldiers supported rescue and rescue with 495 men and women in eleven districts and cities. More than 200 soldiers lend a hand in Rhineland-Palatinate. The Technische Hilfswerk (THW) has a total of 2065 helpers in both federal states. They save people, evacuate buildings and hand out sandbags. After all, the water levels fell in some places. It indicated a slight relaxation.
The federal government promised help to those affected. In order to get his own impression of the situation, Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) wants to travel to the affected regions. Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also wants to come to the areas. The disaster stunned him, he says. In his thoughts he was with the bereaved of the victims. ‘Your fate hits me in the heart.’