Ahr Valley (Germany)
From our correspondent
A small army is set in motion on the industrial area of Grafschaft, in Rhineland-Palatinate. Almost a month after the terrible floods which caused the death of 180 people, including 141 in the neighboring Ahr valley alone, more than 2,000 volunteers from all over Germany are still mobilized for the clearing work. Boots on, buckets and shovels in hand, they were transported to the victims thanks to a shuttle service set up by a local entrepreneur, Thomas Pütz. ” Hello everyone. This is a beautiful sunny day to do this f… job ”, throws the latter to the speaker. Some will be assigned to cleaning factories, others directed to houses, or vines to be pruned.
If the outpouring of solidarity does not dry up, the atmosphere on the ground has changed over the days, since the catastrophic floods of July 14 and 15. “We now understand that the crisis will last, notes Thomas Pütz. Our mission is to leave no one behind. “ The entrepreneur calls on volunteers to be not only the “Arm of the victims” but also “Eyes and ears”. It encourages everyone to listen to people in need and to point out vulnerable people to teams of psychologists.
In the nearby small town of Bad-Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, the tension is still noticeable. If the mud has largely been evacuated, the bruised spa town remains traumatized: the three bridges over the Ahr were washed away, the white casino and the Steigenberger hotel, by the river, were gutted. A few streets away, Elke and Udo, owners of a dance hall, are busy, helped by volunteers. Elke cannot hold back her tears at the mention of the drama. “The water came in less than five minutes, like a tsunami. It was a big boom. I thought I was dying ”, she says, in a sob. At the end of the mass, the Catholic priest Jörg Meyrer confirms “The enormous need to speak” disaster victims. “Bodies and minds are tired” he recognizes, moved. “We are optimistic, he says, however. If some want to leave the region, we will stay. “
Imagining the future is complicated. In the village of Dernau, located in a narrow valley overhung with vines, the brownish mark left by the water almost reaches the roof of some houses. Here, 17 people have died and, according to Mayor Alfred Sebastian, three residents have committed suicide since the disaster. “90% of the 620 houses in the town are unusable”, notes the chosen one. Like other mayors in the region, Alfred Sebastian had signed an open letter asking for a vast federal aid plan to finance the reconstruction. Tuesday, August 10, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the 16 regional minister-presidents have in fact released 30 billion euros, intended to rebuild destroyed or damaged infrastructure, public buildings, especially schools, not to mention private homes. Rebuild? The prospect seems distant now. “Who tells us that this“ millennial ”flood will not happen again in three years? “, asks the mayor of Dernau. “Of course, we have to change the way we build, extend the water retention areas, but even that will not be enough in the face of such floods”, he believes. For the elected official, it is above all necessary to make compulsory insurance in the event of bad weather, “Because it will happen again”.
In Bad-Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Udo agrees. “If it’s not here, it will be elsewhere in Germany, in Europe. The whole world should consume less electricity, fewer big cars ”, launches, in front of a black SUV, the owner of the dance hall “The three musketeers”. “I too should change, he admits, laughing. But if the Chinese, Russians and Americans do nothing, what good is it? “ Udo is hoping for help as soon as possible to reopen his establishment … But it will not be for two years. In the best case.