D.he jeans rolled up and without shoes or socks, but with a cigarette in the corner of his mouth, the man climbs through the window on the first floor. The water builds up inside. “Take care, it’s not worth it,” says his wife, who is also taking photos of the street that looked completely different 24 hours ago. “It happened so quickly,” she says. “I just grabbed my cat and a couple of contracts and I’m out.” Now they close the windows so that no looters get the idea of taking with them what was left damaged by the flood. On Frauenthaler Strasse in Erfstadt-Blessem, a place southwest of Cologne, the water is slowly receding. It leaves battered cars, crooked garage doors, and loads of mud. Some residents are already digging out their apartments, but most of the houses are still abandoned. Sirens wail all the time.
Huge holes in the ground have formed in Blessem, the street has slipped and entire houses have disappeared. A riding stable was swept away by the floods. “There are fatalities,” said a spokeswoman for the Cologne district government. How many, the responsible district administrator of the Rhein-Erft district, Frank Rock, could not say on Friday afternoon. 50 people were rescued with boats.
The tide came very quickly. Sinks would have been under water within ten minutes. There was hardly any time to warn people. “It’s a catastrophic situation like we’ve never had here,” said Rock. The whole place smells terribly of gasoline, and a defective gas line makes it difficult to rescue Blessem. Some of the residents are transported away by helicopter.
You can also find all current developments relating to the flood disaster in western Germany in our FAZ live blog on floods
Some of the elderly could not save themselves from the floods
Renate Richardt runs through the puddles not far from her house. She was lucky, it is a little higher. Her garden is full of heating oil because a neighbor’s tank broke, but otherwise only the cellar is flooded with water. “Most of the time, the elderly have died, the younger ones can save themselves more easily than an 80-year-old. I have no words for it, ”says Richardt. An hour later, at a cordon in the neighboring village, a police officer will tell the residents that those who died in Blessem had returned to their homes, even though they were evacuated early.
Everywhere where the Erft once flown and where it has made its way over bridges and through streets, there are barriers like this: in front of them are police officers, the technical relief organization or the fire brigade. A fire department chief says that he still hasn’t received a map. In many places, the fire brigade teams cannot do much more on Friday than wait for the water to recede. Sometimes there is a lack of boats or heavy equipment. At the same time, columns of the water police from Hamburg, who have moved in as reinforcements, or the disaster emergency service from Bavaria are constantly driving through the streets. Emergency calls come from everywhere.