When Michael Kubitzarra enters the garage of his home after a flood in Sinzig (Rhineland-Palatinate), he can’t believe his eyes. His Honda car survived, but motorcycle enthusiasts have to invest a lot of money to get it back to pre-flood condition. In the midst of all the chaos, this is just a glimmer of hope, because the ground floor and basement of his house have been completely destroyed. “No one expected something like this to happen,” he says.
Kobitzarra has been a member of Sinzig’s volunteer fire department for 30 years and can better judge how to warn people of impending disaster. “Our fire department did everything humanly possible,” he says. In the afternoon before the flood wave, firefighters were going from house to house.
Since Kopitzara lives near the Ahr River, he and his neighbors have been asked to better secure their cars and park them in the parking lot of a nearby supermarket. – I did, but I smiled. Four years ago, when he was warned here of the flood of the century, he didn’t even make it to our backyard and it was a silent splash.
Early in the evening, firefighters made a second tour of the area, ringing the doorbell again and using loudspeakers to warn residents of the flood. The message was clear: the water is rising! Be especially careful! Secure your things! Follow the news in the media!
However, Kopitzar, who had been in contact with his fellow volunteer fire brigade all along, decided to do something. He placed sandbags in front of the door, and moved the most important volumes from the cellar to the living room. “I didn’t even think about my laptop and the worksheets in my basement office,” he says.
He also reassured him by taking a look at the Katwarn app. Just before midnight, the disaster alert app announced that all residents of the area within 50 meters of the right and left of the Ahr River should leave their homes. Kopitzara lives 70 meters from the river.
In Germany, there is now debate as to why the disaster warning system has failed to evacuate flood-prone towns like Sinzeg. Michael Kubitzarra has an unequivocal opinion on this. – Such decisions must be made from top to bottom, you cannot burden the small fire brigade of every town with something like that – he says.
Looking back, he believes that by carefully assessing the situation, it was possible to respond earlier and quickly. But who makes such a fateful decision? – You had to have the courage to evacuate tens of thousands of people in a very short time, even if it was for nothing.
In Sinzig you meet people who were completely unfamiliar all the time, who woke up from the screams of their neighbors, and then quickly left their homes in their pajamas. She meets those who live on the first floor and only wakes up when Senzig looks like a lake.
Completely helpless in the face of a flood disaster are those who need protection and assistance, and who cannot even understand the messages about natural disasters. In a house on the ground floor near the river, 12 people with intellectual disabilities lost their lives.
Kristen Loebman is shocked by the events of Flood Night. Now, however, he must support others with their spirit. She was pastor of the Evangelical Parish in Senzig for 30 years. – People don’t even know how they feel yet. They are in the tunnel wanting to salvage what can be salvaged. Then they sit up and start crying, she says.
Loebmann also worked in Andernach on the Rhine, where people used to flood. But such a disaster on the Ahr River? – I thought it was impossible, I could not imagine it. Many at night asked, “What water?”
During the night, Loebmann’s son, who lives below, was evacuated to the Ahr River. On the night of the flood in Sinzig, the siren did not go off once. But why does she have to howl? Reverend thought. Hearing her voice, she would have thought of more fire.
Five days into the flood, Kirsten Loebmann doesn’t know what Senzig should paint. Upright sheet piles a meter high, exactly where is a bike path and recreation area? unimaginable. Do you live more consciously, protect green areas, and stop locking down the area? Yes, definitely. – But you can’t protect yourself from this water.
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