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Everyday life is a Herculean task in the flood zone: Many people in the Ahr valley need daily support

Everyday life is a Herculean task in the flood zone : Many people in the Ahr valley need daily support

The German Red Cross distributes food at 30 locations - but only at noon. Demand from private individuals therefore remains high.

The fact that the situation in the disaster area is gradually easing is increasingly being noticed. But there is still no electricity in many homes. And water has to be boiled – if there is any piped water at all. Preparing food is a Herculean task for many of those affected.

So it's a good thing that for weeks there were numerous volunteers, organizations, caterers or simply groups of people who cooked at home day after day, drove to the Ahr Valley and supplied the people there with food. Many of them can no longer do that after five weeks because they have to pursue their actual occupation after investing a lot of private money, private time, private resources and receiving a big thank you from the people for that. But they cant do any more. The immediate help is lying dormant somewhere. Competent people who can and want to give orders are often searched for in vain.

Every day, tens of thousands of meals are prepared in a field kitchen and distributed to around 30 distribution points.

For a few days now, the crisis team has been taking care of the supply to the people in the Ahr valley. The German Red Cross (DRK) has been commissioned. Tens of thousands of meals are prepared daily in a huge field kitchen in a Haribo parking lot in the county and distributed to around 30 distribution points by members of local associations from all over the country.

Change of scene: People are milling around in front of the Ahrweiler train station. There is a mobile doctor's office here, the vaccination bus is parked here and offers Corona vaccinations. In one corner, the information point of the city administration has taken up residence, somewhat hidden away: Here you can get important information, sometimes a daily newspaper and a few supplies that you might need. Flashlights used to be the big seller here.

The Lions Club has set up a tent: There are clothes, toys and school supplies or fresh fruit and especially water. Every now and then you have to chase away or tolerate a few people who are not affected but still fill their pockets and load their cars up to the roof. But that is another issue.

Around noon, there is a lot of activity in front of the station, where no train will roll in for a long time. Mostly affected people and helpers come to have a warm meal or to organize food for others who can no longer make the journey.

People met and were fed by private organizations for four and a half weeks. One person was usually at the grill twelve hours a day - seven days a week. Franz Hirst from Ahrweiler has enough to do himself. Among other things, his parents' house sank in the floods, but his 84-year-old mother doesn't want to move. He takes care of the house on the side, so to speak. Helping the community is more important. "We sometimes made up to 4,000 meals a day here," he reports.

A large team made sure that everything ran smoothly, that fresh food could be cooked. There were tons of tomatoes and cucumbers being cut, thousands of steaks were on the numerous grills that Hirst played, like a drummer plays the drums around him. Over the weekend, he dismantled his stand. "I can't do it anymore," he says. Physically not and financially also not.

Instead, there has now been a DRK tent at the station for a few days. Initially, the response there was low, with the food at the private stands being more popular. But now the queues are forming at the DRK. There is a kind of goulash with some meat and lots of vegetables, plus a yogurt for dessert. Everything is in disposable packaging. The mountains of garbage are growing. The food seems to be nutritious, nothing is left in the aluminum trays.

Food is available at the DRK for a few hours at lunchtime and in the early afternoon

But there is something else: fixed serving times. Food is only available for a few hours at lunchtime and in the early afternoon. Then the helpers who arrive in the late morning leave again. So there is no breakfast, no hot cup of coffee, no dinner. Everyone has to find their own transport. The result quickly becomes apparent: At the beginning of the week, the Ahrweiler train station is not nearly as busy as it was last week.

On the other hand, demand is increasing where private helpers are still turning up with their food stands. This also means that the DRK is probably throwing a larger portion of its daily prepared and paid meals into the trash. "The money would have been better given to those who have sensibly provided food for the population here from day one," a citizen outside the station indignantly says.

(Original text: Thomas Weber; Translation: Mareike Graepel)