Ahr valley: how people fight against mud and scrap metal

The national road 267 winds at Ahrweiler through the valley, just as the river next to it, the Ahr. Vines line the steep slopes of the mountains to the left and right of the shore. Until just over a week ago, the highway brought tourists to the region, including wine lovers, to the church towers, the wineries and promenades.

Now, however, the federal highway here at Ahrweiler has only one lane left. The other track is one Garbage dump, a good week after the flood disaster already hundreds of meters long. Wooden slats and iron bars are piled up, sofas, washing machines, even motor scooters, tables and cupboards. Everything is covered with a skin of yellow dust. It's an image usually only transmitted to German living rooms from tsunami areas. Now the debris is piling up in the middle of the Rhineland.

Where there was once lawn, there is now only dust and mud

Michael Schomisch sits under the roof next to his garage. He smokes a cigarette, sips a bottle of beer, gazes where once there was lawn and now there is only dust and Mud. For days, he says, he's done nothing but clean up. He shovels the mud as best he can, because the heat has made it as hard as concrete. Schomisch drags debris out of the cellar, the water was up to under the balcony on the second floor, here in the small town of Dernau on the banks of the river Ahr.

Schomisch was just on vacation with his wife in Austria, when the storm hit his home. He called his father-in-law, who also lives in Dernau. "He told us that my mother-in-law drowned in the basement."Schomisch tells the story with surprising composure, almost sober, tired, with a broad Rhenish dialect.

But then he says: "An hour later, the father-in-law called again. His wife was able to escape from the cellar after all." She climbed through a window, crawled up through the light shaft. "The second call was a relief you can't imagine."

Electricity is supplied only by emergency generators, and water comes from canisters

Like Schomisch, many people in the towns and villages along the Ahr now live among mud, rubble and destroyed apartments. 132 people dead, nearly 800 injured. And still 149 are missing. For this weekend, experts predict new thunderstorms and rainfall. "That scares me a little bit," says Schomisch. "I hope the weather forecast is wrong."

Debate on disaster control: better warn, better prevent?

Ahr valley: how people fight against mud and scrap metal

Electricity is still running only through emergency generators, Water Water only flows from canisters, the Internet is crippled. It could be weeks before everything is working again, they say. In some places maybe months.

Between 30.000 and 42.000 residents are affected by the flood. The big cleanup is in full swing. The people in Ahrweiler and the surrounding area are at the end of their tether – and yet they keep going. "It has to go on," says Schomisch. "What is left for us."

The license plates of the cars give it away: Many travel from far away

Schomisch is not alone. He says the Help was "overwhelming". People have come from all over Germany. Suddenly they were standing in Schomisch's garden and cellar with spades and buckets.

Who approaches the places of the Ahr this weekend, is often stuck in traffic jams. Truck roll up, jeeps, cars with trailers. The license plates reveal: many are traveling, some even from Belgium and the Netherlands.

Stations have sprung up all over the Ahr Valley with Boxes full of clothes, toothbrushes, buckets. Men and women who are in the Ahr Valley for the first time serve drinks, roast sausages, shovel and shovel. This is the good news.

The bad: This weekend is the first time that the region overwhelmed with the huge number of donations and volunteers. The roads in the Ahr valley are partially destroyed, 62 bridges and 7 railroad bridges were swept away by the flood alone.

So many helpers – now the threat of heart attack

Now, on the weekend, people have time. They see the pictures from the Ahr, sit down in the car, want to help. But on site there is the threat of a heart attack. The roads are overloaded – and so are the people who have to distribute thousands of helpers to the deployment sites.

The authorities in the district write on Saturday morning: "Great request to the incredible number of helpers. Please renounce from now on the journey to the Flooded area. All parking lots are full, shuttles at capacity." The government deployed its own buses, but only a few days after the flood disaster. Many helpers also bring heavy equipment, pumps, power equipment, some excavators and jeeps. It eats up space.

Sascha Hurtenbach also has mixed feelings when he looks at the large number of volunteers. He says he is thrilled how garbage men from all over Germany arrived here in a few days to Hurtenbach. Hurtenbach is managing director at the waste management company in the Ahrweiler district. He has just come out of a Crisis meeting with his team. "We already have 22 here.000 tons of bulky waste transported here. That's a third of the total waste that would otherwise accumulate in an entire year."

Bulky waste transports get stuck in traffic jams

The sludge and scrap from highway 267, from the banks of the Ahr, slowly makes it up to the industrial area where Hurtenbach's waste center is located, transported mainly in trucks and garbage trucks. On the street in front of the driveway the yellow dust draws a long carpet.

But now, Hurtenbach says, his drivers keep calling him to say they're stuck in traffic. Can't get to the dump because the roads in the Ahr valley and the highway are congested.

Hurtenbach stands in front of a field with sheds and gates. Behind them, trucks jerk slowly in a long line toward the garbage dump. As high as a gymnasium piles up already Bulky waste. With 40.000 old electrical appliances they still count on here, washing machines, televisions, refrigerators. As best they can, says Hurtenbach, the excavator drivers in the devastated villages are already pre-sorting the scrap metal. Waste separation should still work even in the event of a disaster.

Then the rain sets in again

As Sascha Hurtenbach walks from the mound of scrap and bulky waste back to his office, the Rain a. First slowly, but within seconds it rains harder. It is a worry that many have: That the water will return. A lot and fast. "I hope to God this goes well," Hurtenbach says, running off to a hall for shelter.

Authorities also ie warnings from loudspeaker trucks in towns in the Ahr Valley. "Please stand by your own Safety far from the river. And look for a shelter." The situation remains calm until early Saturday evening. The rain stops, the sun even comes out. To the many volunteers from all over the country, the local authorities nevertheless write on this day: "Your help will still be needed in the coming months."

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