Germany’s flood catastrophe one year on | DW Documentary :
The July 2021 flood catastrophe claimed more than 180 lives in Germany alone. The deluge also caused billions of euros’ worth of material damage. Experts warn extreme weather events like this will increase in frequency due to climate change.
It began on the night of 14 July. Heavy rains swept across western Germany. The summer had been wet; the ground was saturated and couldn’t absorb the water, which flowed into the rivers. Suddenly, even smaller rivers became death traps. The gigantic mass of water devastated entire towns: Bad Münstereifel, Rheinbach, Euskirchen. As the night wore on, the wave surged into the Ahr valley, flooding village after village. Cars and trees, bridges and houses were swept away.
People sought refuge on rooftops, where many had to wait all night to be rescued by helicopter. But some couldn’t be saved. They were either carried off by the floodwater or taken by surprise in cellars or underground parking lots. More than 180 people died. Thousands of residents lost everything. It was the worst natural disaster in Germany for almost 60 years.
But what followed restored hope. Volunteers traveled to the flood-hit areas from all over Germany. They dug mud out of the houses, removed the debris and also took the time to talk to those affected. Many farmers arrived in tractors to help clear the roads. Donations hit record levels.
Lothar Schröder’s film charts the course of events, highlighting the suffering of those affected and the indomitable spirit of those who pitched in to help in the aftermath. It also shows how, one year on, large areas still bear the scars of this disaster.
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