Bad Münstereifel and Ahrbrück Chancellor Scholz in the flood area
Bad Münstereifel · The July floods devastated parts of NRW and Rhineland-Palatinate. Now, Chancellor Olaf Scholz took a look at the reconstruction. He spent the day in Bad Münstereifel and on the Ahr river.
Three-quarters of a year after the devastating July floods in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited the area on Tuesday to see how reconstruction is progressing. First stop: Bad Münstereifel.
It is 1.10 pm when a black limousine pulls up in front of the town hall. "Hello, Chancellor!" shouts a boy. But it's not him at all, it's NRW Minister President Hendrik Wüst (CDU). Visible confusion among the boy and some other children. It's not Scholz in the next limousine either, but Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (SPD). Only then, with the tower of the old collegiate church already a quarter past one, does a third car pull up. "That's him!" Short wave, curt words. Conversation with the mayor in the town hall.
"People are smiling again"
Then it's down to the Erft, which now ripples along tranquilly. Excavators and trucks are everywhere, everything looks very much like work. Most of the outlet shops - for which Bad Münstereifel is famous - are still closed. Some are already plastering, others still have dehumidifiers. "At the time Merkel was here, the situation was different," reports Sarah (22). "Now, you see people smiling again."
In this context, Minister President Wüst speaks of a "cheerful, hands-on mentality". One can still imagine the damage caused by the floods. But: "It is absolutely impressive how mentally strong the people here are. That commands a lot of respect. The state aid is also progressing more and more quickly." More than 180 people died in the flood disaster last summer in Germany, most of them in the district of Ahrweiler in Rhineland-Palatinate.
Scholz stands on a makeshift bridge, still without railings. He also drops in at an art gallery and at the restaurant "En de Höll" (In Hell). The Dutch tourist Anita from Utrecht is amazed when she suddenly stands in front of him. Yes, she recognised him immediately, she says, "Hey, that's Scholz“.
A student on his way home says, "That's just a promo!" Another calls out to his buddies, "We saw him, live and in colour. Moritz has his autograph!" But Moritz clarifies, "Not that, but I have a video." Class was cancelled for them, hands-on politics was more important, they were told. Julian Seliger (15) from St. Michael's Grammar School says: "It's quite good that he's taking a look at what's going on here. That this is still topical for him." Scholz also talks to some of the pupils who were particularly involved in the clean-up work - in private. Then he drives on to the Ahr valley.
"Water was 1.80 metres high"
Gerda Zwingmann (82) has spent her whole life in Bad Münstereifel. She lives in a listed house from the 15th century in the old town. "The water was 1.80 metres high in our house," she says. When it receded, it was a picture of destruction: "No more floor, holes in the walls, no more electronics." It took some time for something to happen, she says. In the meantime, however, she is sure: "It's getting there now." It was a seven-month campaign to get the aid money, but now it has worked out.
Actually, now that spring is here, one could look to the future with a little more optimism. If it weren't for the war in Ukraine. "I have already experienced a war," says Gerda Zwingmann. In 1944 she was five years old. "That's when I have a memory of running into a rock cellar when the bombs were falling." She pauses for a moment. "Maybe you should think about getting them afloat again sometime. You never know what's going to happen."
In the afternoon, there was the visit to the Ahr. There, Scholz met with the Prime Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate, Malu Dreyer. The Chancellor arrived in Ahrbrück fifteen minutes late. There, there were first talks with politicians and citizens behind closed doors. Afterwards, the delegation visited a memorial stone and the Brohl Wellpappe company, on whose premises housing for flood victims is to be built.
(Original text: Christoph Driessen, dpa, Translation: Mareike Graepel)