1. GA-English
  2. News

Following the flooding catastrophe: Concerns about health issues arise

Following the flooding catastrophe : Concerns about health issues arise

Officials are growing increasingly concerned about gastrointestinal infections among residents and helpers in the disaster areas. An environmental disaster looms because sewage treatment plants no longer function properly in Sinzig and Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, leaving large parts of the wastewater flowing untreated into the Ahr and then the Rhine.

Nine days after the massive storm, concerns are growing in the disaster areas about residents and aid workers contracting gastrointestinal infections. The head of the crisis team in the Ahrweiler district, Thomas Linnertz, called the situation tense on Friday. Medical personnel were following up on every suspected case regarding outbreaks of vomiting and diarrhea. "However, when emergency workers are on the scene, some of these suspected cases do not pan out," Linnertz said. In the Westphalian city of Hagen, which had already been affected by the floods a day earlier, the first gastrointestinal illnesses have already appeared. There was also a warning of the risk of developing infections in cuts and wounds.

It is also becoming increasingly clear that an environmental disaster is looming on the Ahr. Among other things, the sewage treatment plants in Sinzig and Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler no longer function properly, and large parts of the wastewater flow untreated into the Ahr and then into the Rhine.

Reconstruction of the railroad infrastructure will take years in some cases

According to an estimate by Deutsche Bahn (German Rail), the damage to rail infrastructure as a result of last week's flood disaster amounts to 1.3 billion euros. The repairs and reconstruction will take months and in some cases years, as the rail subsidiary DB Netz reported in a first assessment on Friday. Apart from a few restrictions, however, all long-distance services will be resumed.

Seven regional routes will be closed in the medium and long term because the infrastructure for those stretches needs to be rebuilt or fundamentally refurbished, explained DB Netz board member Volker Hentschel. These include the Voreifelbahn, the Erfttahlbahn and the Ahrtalbahn. But Hentschel emphasized that there are no plans to permanently discontinue any of the lines. The guiding principle for rebuilding is that the infrastructure should be designed to better withstand adverse weather conditions. Bridges, for example, could be given larger spans so that the piers are not washed out so quickly during floods.

In the Rhineland-Palatinate flood disaster area, the bodies of 132 people have now been recovered - four more than the previous day. This was announced by the police on Friday. There are still 149 people missing, six fewer than on Thursday.

The Rhineland-Palatinate police will continue the search for those missing in the flood disaster. "We are determined to do everything we can to give people some certainty about their loved ones," said Rhineland-Palatinate Interior Minister Roger Lewentz (SPD) in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler on Friday. Each case is meticulously processed, he added. A total of 766 people have been treated for their injuries, this number has not increased. No more missing persons had been reported in the Rhein-Sieg district.

In view of the flood damage in the Ahr valley, Sascha Müller-Kraenner, the federal director of Deutsche Umwelthilfe, is opposed to "one-to-one" reconstruction. He believes it would not make sense. Müller-Kraenner told the General-Anzeiger that it is advisable that they move away from the immediate flood area. The flash flooding had shown where that area was. Altogether, the Ahr should be given more space. But retreating away from the Ahr river would depend on the situation. Historical heritage buildings could perhaps be placed up higher. In places where buildings were completely destroyed, however, there should be no new buildings.

Meanwhile, according to a media report, the Federal Ministry of the Interior is pushing ahead with the introduction of a warning system via SMS. He commissioned the introduction of so-called cell broadcasting on Wednesday, Minister Horst Seehofer told the ARD Berlin studio, according to a statement on Friday.

Accordingly, the CSU politician reiterated that he sees the system as a supplement to existing warning systems. "Getting a warning out to the people must work, on all channels. If you are woken up at night, you have to know immediately what has happened and what to do." Text messaging can complement sirens, apps and radio, he said. "We need it," Seehofer said, according to ARD's Hauptstadtstudio.

(Orig. text: dpa/ut/wes/ye / Translation: ck)