Four soldiers in rubber suits ply the highway from vehicle to vehicle. The water is directly below the car windows. Arriving in a car, one of the soldiers wiped a window covered with a layer of dry mud. He stares through the window – nothing – and writes with his gloved finger ‘Read’ (Blank) In the dirt on the rear window. to the next car.
Near the bridge, there is a truck on top of two other trucks. The force of the waters that erupted on this road from Erwistadt to Cologne must have been enormous. An army tank half in the water pulling a truck with a loud noise. Further, the twisted handrail is cut into pieces.
On Thursday and Friday, the water was still too high to see the 28 cars on this lower section of the highway. Now that the waters have receded, here in Irvinestadt and elsewhere in the federal states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, the extent of the damage is clear. But although the rescue work had begun here, the grave danger to Erfstadt was far from over. Heavy rain caused the walls of a gravel pit to collapse, and massive landslides ensued. Entire homes in Blissim have disappeared into the depths. It is not yet clear whether there were casualties in Erfstadt. At least 140 people have died in floods across Germany.
“We tried to evacuate everyone yesterday with six helicopters and 25 rescue boats,” says Elmar Mitke, spokesperson for the volunteer fire brigade, attorney in daily life. It is estimated that 170 lives were saved. I cannot say whether everyone is safe: some of them were on the roofs of their homes and at first refused to be taken by the helicopter. There are rescue teams with boats from Hamburg and Brandenburg at work, and a fire brigade and ambulance workers from different federal states. Who coordinates all this? Mitke sighs: “I wish someone there had an overview.”
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From there, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia and Chancellor Armin Laschet (CDU) will visit Irwistadt on Saturday afternoon to speak with victims and emergency services. “In times of need, our countries stand strong together,” Steinmeier said in a short statement. Laschet also praises the solidarity within the affected areas and the assistance from other countries. Later, Laschet was heavily criticized on internet channels for laughing widely during Steinmeier’s earnest words, apparently after a joke by himself or by local official Frank Rock.
Back from vacation early مبكر
For Armin Laschet, and the other candidates for chancellorship, the challenge is these days. Severe weather and devastation will continue to dominate the news over the coming weeks, until the national elections on September 26. This irreversibly makes the climate crisis one of the main themes of the elections. But too much flood stress on the campaign is soon interpreted as opportunism again.
On Thursday, during his first quick visit to the Altena and Hagen regions, Laschet called for faster implementation of climate regulation. He later said in a television interview that because of “a day like this” he does not immediately change his political course. On Saturday in Irfastadt, Laschet avoided the topic and preferred to serve as a pragmatic prime minister. When a reporter asks about it, Laschet replies that now it’s also about climate adaptation: the facilities that make it safe to live and live in a changing climate.
Green Party candidate Annalina Barbuk returned from vacation Thursday and expressed her condolences to the victims and relatives via Twitter. In addition, it demanded immediate and “non-bureaucratic” assistance to those affected. The fact that climate will now be the focus of the election campaign gives party leader Barbock, who made so many mistakes after a successful start, the opportunity to set the tone once again.
SPD candidate Olaf Schultz, who is also finance minister and vice chancellor, also finished his leave and rushed to the disaster area on Thursday. Schulz talked about climate policies, but he also promised financial support.
Diesel and gasoline
In Irfstadt, the first financial aid was really quick: there is a long queue in front of a mobile bank branch, where everyone who had to leave their home gets 200 euros in cash. “For the necessities of life,” says a man in class, “we have nothing left!” Bank employee: “Today we were able to help hundreds of people”
As for the environment, the city smells strongly of diesel – dozens of generators provide electricity that has been cut off on many streets. Iridescent film floats on brown water as soldiers rescue cars from gasoline dripping from destroyed cars.