“We must continue”: German spa town begins massive flood clean-up effort

“I haven’t slept for two days,” said Michael Kossytorz, 40, standing near a pile of rubble outside his apartment.

For my parents, it’s even worse because they lived closer to the river. But we must continue, ”he said.

Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler in the volcanic Eifel region is one of the areas hardest hit by severe storms that have killed at least 140 people in western Germany since Wednesday evening.

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Torrents of water were sent through the streets, sweeping away cars, sheds, trees and more.

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‘We need help’

The sidewalks were littered with broken furniture, as locals wandered the streets in rubber boots and mud-stained clothes, determined to embark on the enormous cleaning job.

From a fast food restaurant with nothing but bottles of booze behind the bar to a shrunken car dealership to a muddy carpet, the city destroyed so quickly will take months or even years to repair.

The town of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler on Saturday. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Philipp von Ditfurth

In addition to the electricity, which will be cut for several more days, and the almost non-existent telephone network – complicating the search for the missing – the gas pipes have been destroyed and will not be repaired before Christmas.

“The day after the flood we started cleaning up, but it didn’t work because at the start the water level was still very high and we were still in shock,” said Gregor Degen, a baker. who has lived in the city all his life. life.

But then “I got the people from my building together, we got together, coordinated and it worked really well. I am extremely grateful to everyone for the help, ”he said.

“Every death affects me personally because I can imagine, when people are found in their cellars… I can’t help but sympathize.”

For the city of 30,000 inhabitants, famous for its thermal baths and wellness tourism, the impact of the floods is likely to leave deep financial scars.

“The whole city is at risk if we don’t get help,” said Ellen Aust, 58, manager of a spa hotel on the banks of the Ahr River.

“We had just reopened after months of being closed because of the crown,” said Aust, seated at a table outside the hotel with a colleague.

“We normally have a lot of regular customers at the hotel, including those from abroad. We need help to keep going, the whole season is ruined.

By Marion PAYET and Jean-Philippe LACOUR

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