At least 168 people have already died in Europe’s floods in recent days. On the night between Wednesday and Thursday, Ahrjoki also surprised the residents of Ahrweiler.
Ahrweiler is Saturday morning from eight amber and quiet. The sky is covered with a thick layer of clouds, the earth with sludge and debris.
Everything is at a standstill except the Ahrjoki. Its flow continues at a brisk pace. There are tree trunks and items in the sea that were still in use a few days ago.
At least 168 people have already died in Europe’s floods in recent days. On the night between Wednesday and Thursday, Ahrjoki also surprised the residents of Ahrweiler. Brown lines are drawn on the walls of the houses as an indication of how high the water rose.
The detached houses along the Ahri have been beautiful, but now the garden plantations have browned, the decorative statues and sculptures lie on the ground inconsolable, the ragged curtains adorning the broken windows. The cars are shattered on their sides and upright.
All Joenranta houses are marked with a yellow cross. In this way, rescue workers marked the flats from which people had been brought to safety. In the few that the owners have come to clean on Saturday, it is quiet. They don’t want to talk.
Little before nine Ahrweiler wakes up. The streets are filled with people equipped with yellow and off-green boots, ridges and shovels. Pass tractors, ambulances, police cars and fire trucks.
An office worker walks up on a muddy street Thomas Gorba, 53. He is ready to take us to his apartment.
The last few days have been heavy for Gorba and all the residents of Ahrweiler. People living along the Ahrjoki have prepared for the floods, but not for what happened on Wednesday night.
“It was like the end of the world. This was like a canyon, ”Gorba says, pointing to the main street, Schützenstraße.
“The pace of the flowing water was so fast that it not only damaged trees, cars and bridges but took them with it.”
Gorban’s own apartment in the basement on the main street and is water dependent. Gorba has not been able to get inside his home since he evacuated his neighbor upstairs on Wednesday night.
There is an undamaged sunflower standing next to the stairs leading to the door of the apartment. Everything else is in the mud and broken. The stairs are covered in water.
“I hope to get inside today, but I’m not sure,” Gorba says. “Then when I get there, I’ll take a few minutes inside just for myself.”
When the Flood Warning came, Gorba’s friend went to fetch important items for safety. Many neighbors moved their cars to more sheltered places. However, that was not enough, as the water rose higher than ever before.
“Everything happened faster than anyone could have expected.”
Gorba sheltered with eight families from his top-floor neighbor, a 55-year-old cleaner Sinica Ibrahimovicin, create. The night was heavy. The neighbors watched, waited and hoped for the best.
“We slept in the morning, but it wasn’t sleeping.”
Gorba, who has diabetes, was in trouble because he had forgotten his insulin to the bottom layer. When he tried to get it, it was already too late.
“When I saw the water pressurize against the windows, I knew I couldn’t go a step further.”
In addition, there was nasty news in the neighborhood. One neighbor had glued his number to his window and asked people to call. When they called, a neighbor told of an 80-year-old man with Parkinson’s who was carried away by a stream.
Gorba and his neighbors got out of the apartment at noon on Thursday. Gorba only received insulin on Friday. Uncertainty about the apartment is still biting.
Is like There would be work in Ahrweiler, but wheelbarrows transport mud instead of leaves. People are emptying their homes of their garbage-covered property.
Some of the goods are systematically stacked: there is a pile of muddy chairs, another a mud-covered electronics.
Then there are much larger piles where there is no order of any kind: strollers, shoes, lip balms, clothes, mannequins, and everything one can imagine owning.
Many residents have received cleaning assistance from relatives and friends. Andreas Sonntag, 34, lets inside the apartment where he lives with his mother. Sonntag’s mother was alone in the house the night between Wednesday and Thursday.
Sonntag asks us not to disturb the shocked old woman, but she directs us downstairs. There is a kitchen, toilet and living room. Everything is covered in mud.
Inside the living room a student Sophia Kremers, 25, looking for a lost board. Bright sunflowers lie on the muddy floor.
Kremers is the granddaughter of the house owner. She arrived in Ahrweiler today with her boyfriend Kilian Reintgen with to help with cleaning.
“Grandma has a lot of paintings, as you can see. But this one had a lot of emotional value, ”Kremers says.
The painting will soon be found, but it has already been destroyed.
Nearly next door home cleans up too Petra Reiternohnin, 59, with her husband and older son. Reiternohn works as an anesthesia nurse, her husband is a winemaker.
They have come a long way in cleaning up. The ground floor of the apartment is practically empty.
The family’s 20-year-old pit had to go on Thursday to apply for their student ID. He did not arrive because he could not get out of the apartment.
Three of the school’s teachers died. There may not be a school anymore, 23-year-old big brother Alexander Nohn says.
Nohn, who is studying to be a sports teacher, also changed his plans overnight.
“I was going abroad with friends and on my first triathlon in two years. But I’m not going. ”
“This is shit,” he repeats, shaking his head.
Alexander Nohn slept on the flood night with his girlfriend. Reaching the family stuck in the house in the morning was difficult as Nohn did not have a field on the phone.
“This is climate change. I hope this is not the case for you in Finland, ”says Nohn wearily.
Flooding perceiving the destruction caused by it is difficult. It is not a single village or a single river, but numerous rivers and tributaries and the surrounding areas.
The devastation is very different even in nearby places. There are places where the streets are neat and in order, flower plantations in place. The flood only resembles an unstable web or toilet that cannot be used because the water is too high.
Elsewhere, the power has taken everything with it. Bridges, tracks, buildings.
We continue inside Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler and travel to Heimersheim, less than ten kilometers from Ahrweiler. The flood started there a few hours later, as Heimersheimen is downstream of Ahrweiler.
There on the bank of the river runs a railway track that has been torn from its place. In some places it is covered with gravel and stones. There is also stuff under the tracks and on the edge for photos folded from the children’s backpack.
The sign and ticket machine at the Heimersheim train station are torn out of place.
Walks on broken tracks Gentiana Sejdiu, 31, with her husband. Sejdiu from Kosovo moved to Heimersheim just a month ago.
“This was meant to be a new beginning,” the young woman says.
“As soon as I arrived, everything was destroyed.”
The couple had arrived at the banks of the Ahr River to inspect the flood damage and look for Sejdiu’s car, which was carried by the power.
“It’s probably a long way off. But the car doesn’t matter. The most important thing is that we are alive and well, ”Sejdiu says.
Sejdiu says they were lucky. The village is on a steep slope full of vineyards. On the night between Wednesday and Thursday, the neighborhood supervised the outdoors. They take turns guarding the rise of the water.
Had the water risen even higher, the villagers would have had the opportunity to climb the hill.
“At one point, I heard the man cry out for help. I don’t know what happened to him. Eventually I had to go inside because the smell of the oil made me so unwell. ”
Heimersheimia crosses the river. The footbridge that connects the city has collapsed into the river. Excavators and pickers work around the bridge. The noise is loud. Fallen trees are sawn along the train track.
From time to time a police helicopter flies over the village. Pass alarm vehicles.
On the other side of the river, things were worse, as there was no chance to escape the hill. People got stuck in their homes as water, mud and sand covered the exits.
We meet someone working as a roofer along the train track Leonhard Otterpohlin, 22. The young man is tired. He has been working for the last two days on the other side of the collapsed bridge and trying to save people trapped in houses.
First, he embarked on a rescue trip in a plastic boat. Otterpohl lifted people into the boat and transported them by swimming. Then the boat fell apart, and it wouldn’t have gotten people out of the top floors of the buildings anyway.
However, Otterpohl was able to continue the rescue work when he borrowed an Excavator from his supervisor. For he also reached the upper floors.
Otterpohl manages to smile but does not remember how many people have been saved. He has been sleeping for two hours in recent days.