In the flooded areas of western Germany, cleanup work is proceeding at full speed, and in some places reconstruction work has begun. Volunteer helpers and many volunteers from all over Germany are also involved. Although many of the flood victims are in an emotional state of emergency because of the huge losses, which are not only material, they pay great respect to the helpers, and some are overwhelmed by the solidarity.
But this apparently does not apply to everyone. For example, volunteers from the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW), which is active in disaster areas with a total of 4,000 forces, are said to have received an unfriendly reception at times. "This then goes so far that our helpers are insulted," said the vice president of the THW, Sabine Lackner, on Saturday. "When they are on the road with emergency vehicles, they are pelted with garbage," Lackner added.
Some people were deliberately creating a bad mood, in addition to some frustrated flood victims. She could understand the disappointment of some of those affected, especially in smaller communities. Some places were completely cut off for a long time, she said. "If there are then forces, then you are on the one hand of course happy that finally someone is there, but feels perhaps a bit disadvantaged."
THW is involved on the ground and deployed through local hazard response, said Lackner, who is the first woman in THW leadership and has been vice president since 2020. She said they are grateful to the civilian volunteers who spontaneously stepped up to pump out basements in many places, for example, using their own equipment.
"Our top priority goes beyond that, so for example, we can provide power to an entire neighborhood or district." For the individual flood victim, who wonders why no one is coming now, this is sometimes difficult to understand, he says.
The emergency forces had also been filmed during their work by people who had not identified themselves as members of the press, Lackner said. For protection, he said, THW arranged for colleagues to remove their name tags from their clothing. "This is very unfortunate and also puts a strain on our emergency personnel," Lackner said. She herself had been advised to travel to the flood area in civilian clothes and not to be recognizable as a THW employee, Lackner said. However, she will "of course" not do so.
He added that no operations had yet been canceled because of the incidents. The situation is also being monitored very closely by the police, he said. For the volunteer helpers, the situation is psychologically stressful, he said. "I am infinitely grateful to our emergency workers that they continue quite undaunted and create relief for people," Lackner said. He added that there are also specially trained teams for post-deployment care, "we are already sending them along now."
Koblenz police expressed dismay at the reports. "Should the police become aware of such an incident, we will take immediate and decisive action against it," it wrote on Twitter on Saturday. At the moment, however, police in Koblenz could not confirm the descriptions "in any way." "We ourselves have only learned of this alleged incident from the media and immediately checked this with the THW and our police forces," the police said.
According to Lackner, some 30,000 people in the flooded areas currently have no drinking water, no electricity, or must do without both. "We currently expect to be on the ground for several more weeks." At the moment, THW is working to create the conditions for as many people as possible to be able to return to their homes, he said. They are accompanying structural engineers and building consultants and checking whether electricity, gas, water, and sewage are working. A team of experts is also being put together to advise the local forces, for example on bridge construction. In North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, more than 80 bridges have been destroyed or severely damaged. On Saturday, for example, the construction of a temporary bridge in Ahrweiler, Rhineland-Palatinate, will begin with a 24-hour delay, Lackner said.
Photo by Jonas Augustin