SHARE
COPY LINK

FLOODS

One year on: How life has changed for German flood survivors

Nearly a year ago, pounding rain turned the River Ahr, a tributary of the Rhine in western Germany, into a torrent of water that swept everything before it. For those who survived the deadly flood, life changed dramatically. Here are three of their stories.

Petrol station owner Carina Dewald with her son Elias and niece Mara in Dernau in Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany, on July 7th 2022, almost one year after the region was devastated by floods.
Petrol station owner Carina Dewald with her son Elias and niece Mara in Dernau in Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany, on July 7th 2022, almost one year after the region was devastated by floods. Photo: Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

Solidarity

“My dog, my mobile phone and some T-shirts.” That was all Anke Barteit, 57, managed to take with her as the waters rose.

For the past year, Barteit has been living in a small wooden hut in a temporary village erected for flood victims until they can return to their
homes.

Her 30-square-metre “tiny house” is located in a car park in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, one of the towns worst affected by the floods.

Sitting on the terrace outside her makeshift home, Barteit counts her blessings as she looks out across the valley with its forests and lush
vineyards.

The floods unleashed an outpouring of solidarity in Germany, she says.  Strangers she met on Facebook provided the cutlery, sheets, towels and other essential items for her new home.

READ ALSO: Volunteer army rebuilds Germany’s flood-stricken towns

Anke Barteit holds a sign that reads 'solidarity is the rope that holds when everything else fails' in her tiny house in Bad Neuenahr in Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany, almost one year after the region was devastated by floods.

Anke Barteit holds a sign that reads ‘solidarity is the rope that holds when everything else fails’ in her tiny house in Bad Neuenahr in Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany, almost one year after the region was devastated by floods. Photo: Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

Barteit lives alone with her dog Buddy, who she says “saved her life” on the night of July 14th.

The Bichon Maltese woke her up by barking as the water began to pour into her home near the river Ahr.

Barteit, who is recovering from lung cancer diagnosed in 2018, is hoping to return to her home in September, a moment she says will feel like a “dream come true”.

Homeless and jobless

From her temporary office in a small portable cabin, Carina Dewald does the admin for the only petrol station in the village of Dernau.

A year ago, Dewald, her husband, their seven-year-old son and her parents-in-law spent the night on the roof of their house before being
airlifted to safety.

When AFP met her a few days after the disaster, Dewald, now 40, described herself as “technically homeless and unemployed”.

The petrol station where she worked with her husband was razed to the ground, and her house was left uninhabitable as waters from the river Ahr rose to the window ledges on the first floor.

Dewald and her husband “quickly took the decision… to get the station up and running again”, helped by a €70,000 insurance payout, she says.

An architect’s drawing of the building that will eventually be their new office hangs on the wall.

The Dewald family home is still being renovated after a long battle with their insurance company.

Returning to live in the middle of a flood zone doesn’t faze them, though Dewald is hoping the flood warning system will work better if it happens again. “We don’t overthink things,” she laughs.

On July 14th, 2021, the Dewalds’ petrol station remained open until 9pm – less than three hours before torrents of water began sweeping
through the town.

READ ALSO: Why have so many died in the German floods?

Mud-smeared wine bottles

In the cellars of Peter Kriechel’s vineyard in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, the barrels are lined up, the steel vats are gleaming and everything is ready for the 2022 harvest.

A tasting room next door is buzzing with visitors.

It’s a far cry from this time last year, when the cellar was completely filled with water.

In the Ahr valley, known for the pinot noir that grows on its steep slopes, the economy relies significantly on wine production and the tourism it
generates.

Winemaker Peter Kriechel stands in his wineyard in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler in Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany.

Winemaker Peter Kriechel stands in his wineyard in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler in Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany. Photo: Ina FASSBENDER / AFP
 

After the floods, the region’s winegrowers raised 4.5 million euros by selling 180,000 mud-smeared bottles of wine rescued from their cellars.

“It helped us all enormously,” says Kriechel, who wants to take the idea further by venturing “into the next dimension, the metaverse”.

A selection of remaining bottles numbered from 1 to 99 are still to be auctioned off – including number 14, the day of the floods.

That special bottle will be sold in the form of an NFT, a digital token that can be used to represent the ownership of unique items.

By Jean-Philippe LACOUR

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

WEATHER

Will Germany see more snow this winter?

Over the weekend, large parts of Germany saw early snowfall, but will it continue throughout the winter?

Will Germany see more snow this winter?

Many parts of Germany experienced an early white Christmas over the weekend, as snow fell from Berlin to the Baltic Sea. Hesse also saw at least the first swirl of snowflakes and there was light snow in the Siegerland and the Hochsauerland districts of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Some areas of the country were hit particularly hard by the snow – a few centimetres of snow fell in Kassel, while large parts of Bavaria experienced heavy snowfall on Saturday.

READ ALSO: Surviving winter: 8 tips for enjoying the cold like a true German

There were also numerous accidents on icy roads in North Rhine-Westphalia, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Schleswig-Holstein and Bavaria. 

Will there be more snowfall this week?

Snowfall is expected at the beginning of the week in some areas in Thuringia and Saxony, while further south, there is likely to be snowfall only at high altitudes – such as in the Bavarian Alps.

Snow lies on the beach in Zingst, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Georg Moritz

In the coming days, temperatures will rise again and the weather will become milder. According to the German Weather Service (DWD) temperatures will hover between 5C and 12C for most of the country, while only the northeast and east see maximum temperatures of 0C to 4C.

Will there be more snow this winter?

2022 has already broken weather records in Germany – the period from January to the end of October was the warmest since weather records began almost 140 years ago.

READ ALSO: ‘A glimpse into our climate future’: Germany logs warmest October on record

Various weather models have already simulated the coming winter in Europe and Germany and provide estimations on how much warmer the coming winter is likely to be than from the years 1961 to 1990.

The models created by NASA, DWD, and the Climate Forecast System all agree that trend of rising temperatures will probably continue over the winter. Between December and February, it’s expected that the mercury will be between 1C and 3C higher than it was between 1961 and 1990. 

Meteorologist Corinna Borau from wetter.com told the Frankfurter Rundschau that she thinks that it’s extremely unlikely that there will be further snowfall in December in Germany.

“If the month looks rather dry and too mild overall, then we can’t expect large amounts of snow” Borau said. 

According to Borau, January is unlikely to be a “snow bomb” either, though it will still “feel like winter” and snow is only expected to fall sporadically. In February, however, the chances of snowfall are higher than in previous months.

SHOW COMMENTS