At least 188 people in Germany have died from the floods, with more bodies expected to be discovered as waters recede

By Joelle Goldstein
July 19, 2021 08:04 PM
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germany floods
A woman looking at the flood damage in Germany
| Credit: Adam Berry/Getty

Survivors are speaking out and recalling the harrowing scenes that unfolded in Germany after severe flooding devastated several areas of the country, killing more than 180 people.

According to Reuters, the storm in Western Europe — which began Wednesday — marks one of the worst rainfalls and floods that the country has seen in nearly six decades.

At least 188 people in Germany — spanning across states and countries including Rhineland Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia and Belgium — were killed by the extreme weather so far. More bodies are expected to be discovered as the debris-littered waters recede, the outlet reported.

Those who were lucky enough to escape the floods say the terrifying ordeal was unlike anything they've ever experienced.

Paul and Madeline Brasseur, who were at home with their two sons in Belgium's town of Pepinster, told the Associated Press that the water "came all of a sudden" late in the evening.

It "was like a tsunami," Paul, 42, recalled to the outlet, noting that his family retreated upstairs for safety but eventually had to watch from their roof.

germany floods
A demolished house in Altenburg, Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany after the floods
| Credit: CHRISTOF STACHE/getty

As the water continued to rise, the Brasseur family made their way from rooftop to rooftop until they, along with 15 other people, found a roof where they could stay for hours until help came, the AP reported.

"We started to see buildings collapsing, people on the rooftops, buildings collapsing, falling into the water," Paul told the outlet. "We held out, for those nine hours. Then it was citizens, the father of my sons' best friend who came ... up over the rooftops and saved us, too."

Andreas Wachtveitel, a resident of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany, told the AP he is still haunted by the sounds of water rushing into his building and the screams from nearby residents.

"We heard screams from the other side," Wachtveitel, 39, recalled to the outlet. "There's a clinic and the patients were trapped."

Though Wachtveitel survived the traumatic incident, his apartment was completely submerged with severe damage, according to the AP.

"This was the worst thing that's ever happened to me," Wachtveitel, who was covered in mud, told the outlet. "Thank God everybody in our house is still alive, but it was close."

germany floods
Floods in Germany

Pizzeria Roma owner Franco Romanelli also spoke to the outlet and said he was devastated by the damage to his Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler-based restaurant, which was his livelihood.

"It took such a long time to build the restaurant to get it where it is. And now after the pandemic, this is catastrophic," he explained to the AP. "We are not talking about a few thousand euros [to repair the damage]. I made a rough calculation; we are talking about a few hundred thousand euros to rebuild the place."

Equally heartbroken was Mentor Krasniqi, who came to Germany as a refugee from Kosovo and worked as a barman before opening a restaurant four years ago, according to the New York Times. That beloved restaurant is now completely destroyed, he said.

"Everything is lost now: the car, the houses, the bar," he told the outlet, adding that the devastation of this compared to the war in Kosovo "is much worse because it came so suddenly."

And Tabera Irrle, a train driver who helped with clean up efforts, told the Times she was especially heartbroken after 12 disabled residents of the Lebenshilfe Hauscame care home in Sinzig died in the floodwaters.

"Every person who dies is a tragedy,'' Irrle, 23, explained to the outlet. "But this is a special sadness."

germany floods
Germany floods

In the wake of the incident, officials have pledged to assist the displaced residents.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed to send financial aid to the areas devastated by the storm and called for more attention on climate change, according to Reuters.

"It is terrifying," she told residents of Adenau in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, per the outlet. "The German language can barely describe the devastation that's taken place."

"One flood isn't the example of climate change, but if we look at the loss events of recent years, decades, then they are simply more frequent than they were previously — so we must make a great effort," she added, per the AP.

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Finance Minister Olaf Scholz also confirmed to the weekly newspaper Bild am Sonntag that the German government will provide more than 300 million euros ($354 million) in immediate relief and billions of euros to fix collapsed houses, streets and bridges, Reuters reported.

"There is huge damage and that much is clear: those who lost their businesses, their houses, cannot stem the losses alone," Scholz said, per Reuters.

While the immediate assistance will be beneficial to the hard-hit areas, Schuld's Mayor Helmut Lussi reminded people that this incident will have long-lasting impacts on the residents, far beyond the financial aspects, according to the AP.

"This flood will leave scars on the people of Schuld — scars that you don't forget, that can't be overcome, because our lives changed from one day to the next," Lussi said through tears.