Disturbances in communication networks, which make many people inaccessible, complicates the task of establishing a reliable balance of missing persons
Germany remains in chaos. A total of 15,000 people, including 900 military personnel, work around the clock in the west of the country, aware that, just two days after the fatal morning when everything was flooded due to the storm ‘Bernd’, there are still areas of difficult access where citizens await help, may be injured or trapped by water.
The country lives in the present. Nobody thinks about cleaning the mud. The priority is the search for people, the assistance to the injured, the relocation of the victims and the reestablishment of basic services such as electricity, communications and drinking water. The floods have knocked down dozens of towers and power lines, raised roads and bridges and disabled highways such as Lervekusen for hours. Regaining energy is not easy either. The brigades must first ensure that there are no citizens in semi-denial houses or garages who are in danger of being electrocuted.
Germany suffers the drama: at least 133 bodies have been recovered, 156 if we add those found in neighboring Belgium in what is already a “European calamity”, in the words of EU officials. However, the authorities in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia are aware that their number is certain to increase given the large number of people whose whereabouts there is no clue.
The German police have also confirmed another 618 wounded, the majority in the Ahr Valley, where roads remain blocked and bridges destroyed. There, too, it is said that several residents were swept away by the streams that ripped their houses off the ground, and that among the total victims, there are many elderly people who could not flee from the water. The interior minister of the state, Herbert Reul, has taken for granted that several people have died in that place, but clarified that the situation was not yet clear. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is also scheduled to travel to the worst affected areas of Rhineland-Palatinate.
Without mobile telephony
Despite the fact that the official number of missing persons estimated by the Police had been set at one hundred, the municipal government of Koblenz, a historic city where the Rihn and the Moselle converge, reported that 1,350 people remain unaccounted for in the upper-middle valley. of the Rhine. It is taken for granted that, apart from those who are on vacation, many inhabitants will not have been able to be contacted by their relatives due to the fall in mobile telephony and that others fled their homes to elevated areas in the first moments of the avenue.
“Lots of people have lost their homes and are wandering from one place to another amidst the chaos,” said a spokesman for the firefighters. Unfortunately, the emergency services believe that in that thousand there will also be neighbors who were swept away by the streams or died in their homes.
Every meter that advances, the rescue is a titanic effort under the protection of fortune. The risks are enormous. It is still raining, buildings are collapsing because of the damage inflicted by the onslaught of the waters – several people who had decided to return to their homes in Cologne were crushed yesterday -, there are landslides and the engineers fear that two reservoirs, Rurtalsperre and Steinbachtalsperre, burst and flood towns like Heimbach, Nideggen and Kreuzau.
The worst are the faces of helplessness, fear and amazement of the survivors. And the unwritten graves that appear everywhere. Bodies carried by currents, drowned in homes and basements or found in wrecked cars may “go up” as the water falls in the 23 cities affected by the floods, reported the Federal Office for Protection. In some of them, the level rose 1.69 meters in the early hours of Thursday. In Schuld, one of the worst-off towns, the creek grew from one to eight meters. The city offers an unusual image with thousands of trunks and branches filling its streets.
In the trees
The water level has not dropped in large areas, which makes it difficult for firefighters and toilets to work. Helicopters have also not stopped flying to evacuate those who climbed on the roofs of their houses and the treetops to escape the flood. Not even the cranes and boats have stopped evicting children and adults through the upper windows of their homes. Exhaustion is beginning to take its toll. It helps to have tens of thousands of bags of earth placed to contain new avenues at critical points.
Half a dozen cities are already the scene of the deployment of troops destined to provisionally rebuild damaged infrastructures, after on Thursday seventeen municipalities requested military aid to face the devastation. Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU), on Friday ordered the Bundeswehr (the armed forces) to postpone all missions, except those in progress abroad, because “the priority now is the relief of Germans. ‘
In fact, his department declared a military alarm. The impressive Dachs tanks, equipped with excavating shovels, and Buffalo, equipped with cranes, are already working to remove debris and other obstacles to facilitate the passage of emergency vehicles
The Rhine, its tributaries and other smaller basins rose suddenly on Wednesday night due to the storm ‘Bernd’, which left up to 40 liters of water per square meter. The authorities continued this Friday warning the population to withdraw from the vicinity of the rivers.
The State of Rhineland-Palatinate has allocated an emergency budget of 50 million euros to mitigate the damage. For its part, the federal government has committed to sending large funds, although it is still impossible to calculate the extent of the damage. “The suffering continues to increase,” declared Palatinate Chief Minister Malu Dreyer.
Situation in Belgium
The storm is also affecting Belgium, where at least 23 people have died and four have disappeared, according to information from the newspaper ‘Le Soir’. In the region of Wallonia, in the south of the country, some 41,000 households have been without electricity supply, for which the authorities have announced the release of emergency funds to help affected populations.
The authorities have warned that the “situation in the electricity distribution network continues to be extremely complicated.” In addition, mobility is severely limited, with train and bus services suspended.
The governor of the province of Liège, the most affected, has warned that the death toll could increase. “Only in Liège there are currently 13 missing people,” he clarified. “We do not know anything yet and we still cannot give a definitive figure,” he insisted.
This same Friday, the Belgian Prime Minister, Alexander de Croo, declared July 20 as a day of national mourning in memory of the victims of the floods. Thus, he regretted that he expected a “worsening” of the figures and pointed out that the situation “continues to be critical” in many areas of the country.