The magazine of the photo-essay
Autumn 2021 issue
Flood RemainsAhr and Erft valleys, Eifel-region, Western Germany
A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine. Fabulous! Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film maker
by Eckart Bartnik
Back to menu Back to menu
Four days before the water level rose, the European Flood Awareness System (EFAS) sent out the first warnings. These became more specific and precise from day to day. Neither the responsible agencies nor the media reacted to the warnings. The flood through the Ahr and Erft valleys in the Eifel-region of Western Germany claimed 180 lives and left behind enormous suffering and immense damage to infrastructure. The transition from untouched landscape to the chaos of the immense damage is abrupt: everything is just brown with mud; it smells of rotting plaster and fuel oil. Destroyed houses left piles of rubble, black holes of former windows and doors foreshadow the force with which the flood penetrated the houses. Residents drag baskets of muddy inventory out of the houses. I found places that had been transformed by the chaos and individual objects, remains that survived the flood and tell of a before and after. August 2021, the sixth assessment report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was published: the influence of humans on the climate system is clear. The more we disrupt the climate, the more severe, widespread, and irreversible consequences we risk. We have been warned.
The bear Two weeks after the flood, most of the debris that had been washed away and wedged onto the bridges had already been removed. Someone must have found the bear statue and placed it there - perhaps out of gallows humor?
Chaos With its enormous force, the water had torn out railroad tracks, bent them and caused them to burst.
Gum machine Before the flood, there was a pub here - only a gum machine and a cigarette machine remained.
Wrecks The scratch marks in the paint give an idea of the force with which the cars were washed away by the Ahr River.
Rest area When I came to this place in Dernau, it was still very early in the morning. A little later came the first of the many volunteers who can wash and rest here.
Vineyard The Romans had already cultivated wine in the Ahr valley. Parts of the vineyards were flooded by the river and the soils are probably contaminated with carried fuel oil.
Flood wine Under the motto 'Our most horrendous vintage', the winegrowers of the Ahr, who are threatened with extinction, sell their wine bottles which have been spared from the flood, but which are muddy on the outside.
Remains The water had washed the entire inventory out of this restaurant in Altenahr; branches, scraps of cloth, cords and wires carried by the water became tangled in the remains to form bizarre structures.
The River Six weeks after the flood, the water of the Ahr River was almost clear again, and the smell of fuel oil had subsided. But it will take a long time to rebuild the destroyed. infrastructure.
Oil tanks Most of the houses in the Ahr Valley were heated with heating oil. Many of these tanks were damaged or washed out by the flood and the oil contaminated the water and the soil.
Sculpture Flooded structures were entangled with washed-up garbage and formed bizarre, abstract sculptures.
Playground The playground of the camping site of Altenburg.
The stack This campsite in a side valley of the Ahr was still completely cut off several weeks after the flood. The first clean-up work could only begin now. To create space for further clean-up work, the wrecked caravans were simply stacked.
Garden Thick, viscous mud was settling everywhere, drying to a concrete-hard layer if not removed quickly.
In the evening The Eifel with its beautiful landscape became my second home. Therefore, I experienced this evening mood after I had seen the destruction, with ambivalent feelings.