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How are the 2021 German flood victims of Ahr Valley (Ahrtal) going to cope with the winter?

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Ahr valley after the flood: somehow getting through the winter

Winter is here – also in the destroyed Ahr valley. Four months after the German floods, many heating systems have long since ceased to work and new ones are hard to come by. Many households also lack money for heating oil.

Winter is coming: craftsmen are working to the limit

Now in November it is only a few degrees above zero at night. The people in Ahrbrück can clearly feel that winter is getting closer and closer. Like so many others in the Ahr Valley, the small town in Rhineland-Palatinate was destroyed by the floods in summer. Those who are not accommodated in alternative quarters hibernate in the floors that are still reasonably intact.

Pressing task before winter: The supply of heat is currently the most pressing task in the disaster area, almost four months after the flood. After every helping hand was needed in the beginning, the situation in the Ahr Valley is now a bit different. The piles of rubble on the streets have largely disappeared, and many of the destroyed houses have been gutted. 

Now is the time for the skilled workers: “We need heating engineers, electricians, cleaners, screed layers”, Mayor Radermacher lists. “All craftsmen are currently at their limit.” And finding the right craftsman was anything but easy even before the flood disaster.

Altenahr-Kreuzberg

On July 19, caravans, gas tanks, trees and scrap were piled meters high on a bridge over the Ahr in Altenahr-Kreuzberg. Several fatalities from the disaster were found in the rubble.

The destroyed, historic arch bridge at the site in Altenahr-Kreuzberg has now been cleared of rubble. Numerous houses on the bank had been so badly damaged that they had to be demolished in the meantime.

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Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler

This is what it looked like at this point directly after the flood in July 2021 in downtown Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler.

Three months after the flood, the traces in the city center of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler are still clearly visible.

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Altenburg

Immediately after the disaster, this picture made the full extent of the disaster clear. The aerial photo provided by the police shows the Altenburg district flooded by the Ahr flood.

The flood disaster created large open spaces in the district. Many houses in Altenburg had to be demolished. A future conference has meanwhile dealt with the reconstruction of the disaster area.

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Insul

Remnants of the arch bridge in the town of Insul, torn away by the flood, lay in the water of the Ahr. Helpers were busy day and night to make the streets in the largely destroyed places passable again.

In the meantime, a pontoon bridge built by the Bundeswehr spans the historical arched bridge over the Ahr in Insul. The recording is from October 8th.

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Dernau

In September, an excavator tore down a house in Dernau that was in danger of collapsing after the flood disaster. A police water cannon helped bind the dust.

Messages of thanks to the helpers were sprayed on the walls of a house in Dernau in October. According to a shuttle service set up for them, more than 70,000 volunteers have already arrived in the Ahr Valley to help the flood victims remove the core from their soaked four walls.

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Sinzig

The Ahr valley bridge on federal road 9 near Sinzig collapsed as a result of the flooding of the Ahr – below a photo from July 20, 2021.

One half of the bridge on Bundesstrasse 9 over the Ahr finally had to be demolished, as this photo from September 29 shows.

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Eifel

A picture from the flood-affected Eifel. A train was parked in Kordel at the high tide night. Part of the place was flooded by the water masses of the Kyll. Three months later…

… the damaged train is still standing in the Eifel community station.

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Mayschoss

After the flood, rubbish, flotsam and rubbish lay on the banks of the Ahr in Mayschoss. Numerous houses in the place were completely destroyed. The photo was taken a few days after the night of the flood.

In the wine village of Mayschoss an der Ahr, the rubble has been cleared away after the flood, the clearly visible signs of destruction.

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Fear of cold winter days in the Ahr valley

A large part of the natural gas network in the Ahr valley was destroyed by the tsunami, and the oil heating systems in many of the houses affected have no longer worked since the flood. While that wasn’t a big problem in the summer months, many residents in the Ahr Valley now fear the approaching winter.

Rebuilding the infrastructure will take years

According to the Supervision and Service Directorate (ADD) of the Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of the Interior alone, the flood damaged or completely destroyed 24 road bridges in the Ahr Valley. There were also pedestrian and railway bridges. The country estimated the damage caused to the bridges alone at at least 200 million euros.

What about roads, bridges and railways?

Three months after the flood, all places in the Ahr Valley can be reached again. However, some residents – for example from Reimerzhoven – still have to take detours, because the Rotweinstrasse still has a long gap. According to the State Office for Mobility (LBM), the ramp to the tunnel from the direction of Reimerzhoven is currently being restored. The flood in July had completely torn away the route (B267) near Altenahr next to a tunnel.

According to its own information, the Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of Transport expects a provisional filling of the gap in the road for traffic in 2021. However, the final repair of the roadway is not expected until spring 2022.

What about the Ahr Valley Railway?

Part of the Ahr Valley Railway is scheduled to go back into operation at the end of 2021.

The Ahr Valley Railway is still not running again. The railway has used a rail replacement service. According to Federal Transport Minister Scheuer (CSU), the route from Walporzheim to Ahrbrück is to be rebuilt and modernized. In addition to the money from the reconstruction fund, there should be another two billion for the infrastructure in all flood areas throughout Germany, according to Scheuer – 1.3 billion of which for the railway alone.

Until when the Ahr Valley Railway will run again, neither Scheuer nor Deutsche Bahn could say specifically. According to railway information, the Remagen-Walporzheim section is to be put back into operation by the end of the year.

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