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Receding water reveals extent of damages: Storm causes destruction of unbelievable magnitude in the district of Ahrweiler

Receding water reveals extent of damages : Storm causes destruction of unbelievable magnitude in the district of Ahrweiler

Massive flooding has claimed the lives of more 90 people in the district of Ahrweiler, with hundreds more suffering injuries. Local towns and villages have been devastated, the infrastructure and energy supply completely disrupted.

In the Old Town of Ahrweiler, around 30 kilometers south of Bonn, the floodwaters had largely receded by Friday morning. But this only made the extent of the damage all the more visible, with mud and debris everywhere. Behind broken window panes, one could see chaos and destruction. Cars  littered the streets, swept away in the flooding caused by the torrential rains on Thursday night.

All around Sebastianstrasse in the direction of the town center of Bad Neuenahr, the scene looked like something out of an apocalyptic movie. Wrecked cars were strewn everywhere, some lying on their roofs or covered in mud. At some houses, a small lake had formed, filled with water and storm debris. Anyone who turned right at the junction with the L 83 would soon find it hard to get any further. Several uprooted tree trunks blocked the way. The dangerous areas were not cordoned off, although police and fire department vehicles could be seen at all times. They have had to set priorities, save lives where it is most urgent or recover the bodies of flooding victims. On Saturday as of 5 am, the number of dead in the Ahrweiler district rose to at least 90, according to police authorities in Koblenz.  More flooding fatalities are feared.  As of Saturday morning, there were 618 persons injured and many still unaccounted for. 

Flotsam piles up along the flooded Rhine 

Justice Minister Herbert Mertin will visit Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler on Friday to get an on-site overview of the damage, especially at the local courthouse there, the Ministry of Justice announced. The building and important technical infrastructure were damaged in the flooding, so that the court can only conduct limited business at present.  Along the flooded Rhine where wine merchants Ursula and Hans Diedenhofen have their business in Remagen-Kripp, flotsam from the Ahr valley piled up. In the knee-deep water, scavengers collected recyclable materials and empty bottles washed away from a beverage warehouse in Sinzig.

In Sinzig, the pillar of a bridge spanning the Ahr River buckled, causing it to sink. Authorities cordoned off the whole area. Long traffic jams were just one consequence. Twelve people who lived in a home for the disabled perished in the floods. The town of Schuld in the municipality of Adenau almost looked as if there had been a bombing, described GA photographer Benjamin Westhoff, who visited the site on Thursday morning. Although houses were no longer under water, there was still water pooling in some areas, it was a  scene of devastation. Cars had been washed away, one lying in the Ahr River.

The access routes and bridges had been basically cleared. However, parts of the bridges were broken off, making passage very difficult in some places. In the east of the village, one bridge had collapsed completely.  The center of the village was buried in mud and debris. Some of the first families to return were armed with shovels for the clean up. Apart from one power shovel, however, no heavy equipment for cleanup work could yet be seen  on Thursday morning.

Electricity and water supplies were cut off in many places. The public utility company Stadtwerke Bonn was making an effort to send water trucks to towns along the Ahr River that have little or no water supply. The company also asks residents in the places that still have water to use it sparingly and to boil it beforehand if it is used for drinking, cooking or preparing food or drinks.

According to SWR, the utility company Energienetze Mittelrhein has described the situation in the Ahrweiler district as dramatic. "The gas pipeline is completely ruptured. Really destroyed," company spokesman Marcelo Peerenboom is quoted as saying. It will take weeks or months until there is gas supply there again, he said.

According to the company, the masses of water and debris in the Ahr Valley and the Eifel region have also caused major damage to Telekom's fixed network infrastructure. There is still no overall picture of the situation, because there are places that cannot yet be reached. And there are areas where a completely new infrastructure has to be built because entire roads have been torn away.  The most crucial telecommunications substations are equipped with emergency power generators that ensure operation for 48 hours after a power outage and can be extended by refueling if necessary. In contrast, apparently a large number of the mobile network sites in the Ahr Valley are operational again.

Orig. text: Sven Westbrock, Simun Sustic, GA live blog

Translation: Carol Kloeppel