Again, the wheelbarrow is full. The resident arduously lifts the two handles to tip the mud into a pit. A pit that did not even exist a few days ago: The flooding in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, as in other regions in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia, has left a trail of devastation.
Here in the district of Heimersheim there is not much to see from the train station on Saturday. Undermined and hollowed-out railway tracks, destroyed cars and broken asphalt areas characterize the backdrop. The latter now serves to minimize the damage of this catastrophe with more than 100 deaths. With the now more brown than yellow rubber boots, the resident pushes the remaining tough, slippery mass from the edge into the pit and comments resignedly:
The water is gone, the mud has remained.
He grabs the wheelbarrow and pushes it back to the house. There the next carriage is waiting. Behind the brown-glued and discarded furniture are smashed cars.
From the train station of Heimersheim, the road leads along the Ahr river to a still intact traffic bridge. A collapsed bridge, on the other side a broken federal highway. On the still intact traffic bridge, a volunteer stops with the motorcycle and takes a few minutes for the first time to let the experience sink in. He tells how he had rescued police officers from the flooded main road just a few hours earlier – when it was still there. He does not pause for a long time, the mission waits.
Even in the city centre of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, the streets are still muddy. In the marketplace, volunteers distribute food, drink, clothes. Meanwhile, the residents put their destroyed belongings on the market square for collection, pump out cellars, try to get rid of the mud from their living space. Anyone who walks through the city center here looks into expressionless faces and empty eyes. People who function. Who may therefore not have been able to comprehend the extent yet. Reflecting on what has happened – there has been no time, no air yet. Too much to do.
About 30 kilometers further on near Euskirchen, some villages are also affected by the flooding. Everywhere between the villages, the garbage heaps with damaged household goods pile up meters high and far on the fields flattened by the masses of water. The devastating images in front of their eyes, thousands of people are still frightened for their existence days after the actual flood. Evacuated, housed in emergency shelters. The reason: The already damaged Steinbach Dam threatens to break. The fire brigade and the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) are trying to provide relief, pumping out more than 400,000 litres per minute. The level drops as a result, but it is not enough to give the all-clear – even on Sunday afternoon. “It is also not yet possible to predict when the evacuation measures can be withdrawn,” says the responsible district of Rhein-Sieg.
If you want to help in the Aachen city region, you can contact the German Red Cross in Aachen under the telephone numbers 02405/603 93 88 and 02405/603 9 337 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, which coordinates the aid campaigns there centrally. Helpers and those seeking help also coordinate via social networks, as in Ahrweiler. However, the districts ask not to drive independently to the disaster areas, as this can hinder the deployment of professional aid workers. The Sparkasse Ahrweiler has also set up the donation account “Hochwasser” (IBAN DE86 5775 1310 0000 339457), as well as the Aktion Deutschland Hilft.