Tense evacuees sit out flood disaster

2013-06-06 22:26
Gallery  |  click on thumbnail to view larger image

Central Europe faces massive floods

Rising waters have claimed at least 11 lives and forced tens of thousands of evacuations across central Europe in recent days. See photos from the floods.

Germany -"I just want to go home," says German flood evacuee Karola Teetz, sitting in a crowded emergency centre near what has become a virtual ghost town on the banks of the swollen Elbe river.

For four days, the 55-year-old has camped out with her mother, sister and about 150 others in a converted school gymnasium in Wolfen, part of the eastern city of Bitterfeld, a hotspot in the flood disaster.

She says she plays board games to while away the time. Around her pensioners doze or drink coffee and children paint pictures. A mother breastfeeds her baby and then places it in a travel cot.

At night the displaced from the worst floods in over a decade here sleep on beds and mattresses lined up on the floor, worrying about their homes in Bitterfeld, 12 kilometres away.

Teetz, who usually works in a public swimming pool, has seen her home region turned into a vast brown waterworld.

A swollen lake is threatening to jump a dyke and spill into her town in what was once communist East Germany. Two controlled explosions to empty it away from the town have had little results.

Teetz praised the thousands of volunteers who have flocked to the area to fill sandbags and people who have come by the centre to help out, bringing cakes, books, towels and childrens' toys.

But she still said she felt "abandoned" and complained that "we don't get a lot of information" about the state of the worst flood since 2002, recalling that she had hesitated before leaving her home.

The evacuees are cared for by Red Cross volunteers, including Silke Stannebein, 45, who said: "We have to keep motivating people to stay here. It's like a chaplain's work."

Bitterfeld was notorious in the former East Germany as the site of a heavily polluting chemical industrial complex that was so toxic much of it was wiped off the map after reunification.

The city of some 45 000 people hasn't fully recovered.

Old Baroque architecture mixes with prefabricated housing and some joyless new buildings. Unemployment at around 11% is nearly double the national rate.

Amid the floods, much of the city now lies abandoned, with only trucks and tractors carrying sand and bags to strengthen the lake defences rumbling through empty streets, and the whirring sound of water pumps heard from water-logged basements.

On the edge of Lake Goitzsche, which Chancellor Angela Merkel visited on Thursday, there is far more activity. Soldiers in khaki T-shirts and volunteers fill sandbags, or occasionally use them for a rest, taking pictures of the activity with their smartphones.

Many are wearing straw hats against the summer sun in the blue sky, a welcome change after the days of torrential rains that have caused the inundations.

"School is closed all week," said one of the helpers, 16-year-old Laureen Wegert. She was working alongside 200 Bundeswehr soldiers shovelling sand into ever more bags, hoping to prevent what locals call a mini-tsunami.

"I wanted to do something useful," she said.

In a flooded garden, littered with debris from the endless sea of dirty water, someone has pinned a poster to a fence, declaring "A big thank you to all those who are helping us".

Read more on:    germany  |  eu  |  flood

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.