Destroy disaster areas, restore electricity, and measure damage: A Titanic mission has begun after the devastating floods in Western Europe, including Germany, many of which are still missing.
A total of about 130 people were killed in these rare weather conditions, which also killed Belgium, while Luxembourg and the Netherlands saw a sudden rise in water levels in a part of their region.
Residents who took refuge on Wednesday evening when the floods began are gradually returning to their homes.
Dilapidated scenery awaits in the affected areas of West Germany, North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate: Destroyed houses, torn trees, overturned cars, collapsed roads and bridges, cut-off networks. At least 108 people have died.
“For 48 hours, it was a dream, we shoot here, but there is nothing we can do,” explains Cornelia Schloser, thinking of the tragic state of the family bakery in the village of Schultz, drowning in the waves.
“In a few minutes, a wave was at home,” the fifties told AFP.
In all affected areas, firefighters, civil defense, municipal officials, soldiers – some driving bins – have begun massive work to remove and clean up the piles of mud that often clog the streets.
– Donations and Collections –
“The work is enormous,” admitted the mayor of Solingen, a town south of the Ruhr area.
The scale of the disaster is beginning to appear.
We have to pump water, evaluate the structure of damaged buildings, demolish some of them, restore electricity, gas, telephones, build houses for people who have lost everything.
The disruption of communication networks makes many inaccessible and complicates any amount of missing persons.
“We have to assume that we will find other victims,” predicted Caroline Waitsl, mayor of Erfstadt, not far from Cologne, where a large landslide washed away land and homes.
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier plans to visit the devastated city on Saturday.
The government has indicated it is working to set up a special aid fund when the damage is expected to reach billions of euros.
Solidarity has also been arranged with appeals for donations launched across the country, local collections, and financial assistance promised by large companies such as carmaker Volkswagen.
Rhineland-Palatinate leader Malu Trayer warned that the damage was “very severe and will keep us occupied for a long time”, while his North Rhine-Westphalian representative Armin Lacet spoke of a “catastrophic, historic scale”.
– “Without any precedent” –
The leader of the Conservative CDU party, President Angela Merkel is the winning candidate and favorite in the September 26 Assembly elections, Mr. Lachet, like the entire political class, demanded that “the pace be accelerated” in the fight against climate change.
The disaster “changes the election campaign”, putting the climate issue at the center of the debate, the Spiegel newspaper says.
Angela Merkel, who is returning from a visit to the United States, plans to visit the site of the flood soon.
Crossing the Axis of the Rhine in the west of Germany, it is mainly small rivers, somewhat protected, which are suddenly flooded by dozens of invaders under the influence of rain from their beds. Inhabited areas are mostly built in flood zones.
Hundreds of people were evacuated on Friday evening after a dam collapsed in the Cologne region, if rain is to stop this weekend in the most affected areas.
In Belgium, too, as the water receded, “we can still see catastrophic conditions,” said Kristin Defrain, the mayor of Liege.
In this country, according to a more provisional estimate, the tragedy of at least 20 deaths and the disappearance of twenty people is “unprecedented,” said Prime Minister Alexander de Crew, who declared National Mourning Day on Tuesday.
burs-smk / ahe