© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: German Bundeswehr troopers assist to scrub up the particles following heavy rainfalls, in Dangerous Muenstereifel, North Rhine-Westphalia state, Germany, July 21, 2021. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen


By John O’Donnell and Tom Sims

BAD MUENSTEREIFEL, Germany (Reuters) – Dangerous Muenstereifel’s transformation from picturesque however sleepy German vacationer city into an outlet procuring centre put it on the map for tens of millions of holiday makers.

Then floods laid waste to its medieval streets and half-timbered buildings, highlighting the vulnerability of Europe’s prime economic system to an more and more unpredictable local weather.

Past the city, the flooding stretched from an space near the western metropolis of Cologne right down to southern Bavaria, hitting the historic centres of Aachen and Trier and leaving a path of destruction behind it.

Lately, different heavy floods have hit different elements of Germany, overflowing the banks of the waterways which have performed such a key function in its prosperity.

These floods have brought on tens of billions of euros of harm – a a lot greater financial hit than any of Germany’s neighbours have suffered from inundations, in accordance with a research by Swiss Re (OTC:), which insures insurers.

In Dangerous Muenstereifel, the main target was on the fast injury. As scores of troopers handed orange buckets of particles and sludge, Marita Hochguertel recalled the city’s revamp after 2014, when an investor introduced in dozens of outlet outlets to fill empty storefronts.

Guests greater than doubled to 2.5 million a yr, sparking a renovation growth, mentioned Hochguertel, who has labored for the city authorities for 42 years.

“It introduced life to the city,” she mentioned outdoors the council constructing as muddy crews labored with bulldozers to clear wreckage, from damaged chairs to the stray legs of mannequins.

Garbage piles grew greater because the day wore on. The smells of diesel-fuelled water pumps and mud polluted the air. A crushed automobile lay lodged sideways within the slender river.

The pictures have shocked Germany, prompting a debate forward of nationwide elections that would loosen the maintain on energy of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and bolster the Inexperienced get together.


A lot of Germany’s trade, together with metals big Thyssen Krupp and chemical substances giants Bayer (OTC:) and BASF, developed in centres near waterways such because the Rhine – which was additionally impacted within the latest flooding.

The community of rivers and canals stays essentially the most intensive in Europe and is used to maneuver round 200 million tonnes of freight annually, from grain to coal and oil. However it’s quick changing into a risk.

These have been the third main floods to hit Germany because the flip of the century.

In 2002, the Elbe river flooded, affecting Dresden and different cities. In 2013, floods hit Bavaria exhausting alongside the Danube and Inn rivers.

Injury for each years totalled 42 billion euros, and fewer than 1 / 4 of it was insured, in accordance with Swiss Re.

July’s floods are set to be Germany’s costliest ever, in accordance with the German Insurance coverage Affiliation, which estimated claims alone at as much as 5 billion euros.

The entire value, with torn roads, practice tracks and telephone strains, already seen within the billions, will far outstrip that.

ICEYE, which displays flood zones for insurers utilizing satellite tv for pc photos, estimates that greater than 37,000 German buildings have been affected by in July, in contrast with fewer than 1,700 within the neighbouring Netherlands.

Even earlier than this most up-to-date disaster, Swiss Re estimated the financial value of flooding in Germany in latest many years at greater than twice that of France or Britain.

However public debate, in a closely industrialised nation that depends on diesel automobiles, equipment and different items to prosper, had been muted amongst massive elements of the inhabitants.

That could be about to vary.

Anders Levermann, who has suggested the German authorities on the local weather, mentioned he feared that floods may upend the economic system and political order in the event that they develop into way more frequent occasions.

“What is going to occur if climate extremes develop into so frequent that we do not have time to get better in between?” he mentioned. Germany’s function as exporter implies that provide chains throughout the globe is also in danger, Levermann added.


Within the Netherlands, the place roughly half the nation is beneath sea degree and the place they’ve spent centuries holding again water, planning has been ongoing for many years. It fared higher within the latest floods.

“We have been anticipating this for a very long time,” mentioned Marjolijn Haasnoot, a Dutch local weather scientist.

“This quantity of flooding will happen way more continuously … due to local weather change.”

The Dutch are additionally slowly embarking on a debate which will have available in Germany – over whether or not they need to simply give up land to advancing water.

“Lots of people suppose they will defend every thing with dykes. What they don’t realise is that sea water is seeping inland below the dykes,” mentioned Maarten Kleinhans of Utrecht College.

“In the long run, half of the nation is below risk,” he mentioned, of Holland. “We’ve seen it up to now – that villages and cities have been washed away or disappeared into the bottom. You’ll be able to construct sea partitions to defend the cities, however you’ll be able to’t try this all over the place.”

Graphic: Floods in Germany – https://graphics.reuters.com/GERMANY-WEATHER/zjvqkqjjrvx/chart.png

In Dangerous Muenstereifel, Michael Starkel, a resort proprietor and head of the native enterprise affiliation, fears folks will pack up and never return.

“I’ve talked to many individuals within the outdated city who actually have ideas to depart,” he mentioned throughout a break from serving to the cleanup crews clear riverbeds of tree trunks and different detritus.

If historical past is any indicator, folks within the catastrophe zone are in for an extended slog.

    Deggendorf, a city of 37,000 residents in Bavaria hit by floods and a dam break in 2013, remains to be recovering, Viola Muehlbauer, the pinnacle of the mayor’s workplace, mentioned.

    “It can absolutely be a really, very lengthy course of till every thing is again to regular.”