Priests struggle to comfort in a flooded German town

Ahrweiler, Germany (AP) — Rev. Jorg Meyer trains himself before passing through the muddy, debris-smelling mountains that permeate this once beautiful town in the German wine-producing Earl Valley. ..

For the past five days, a 58-year-old Catholic priest walked down the street pulling his rain shoes to comfort his parishioners as he embarked on a tough task of cleaning up what was destroyed by flash floods on Wednesday. — And regain the bodies of those who died in it.

“It hit us like a tsunami. Bridges, houses, apartments, water pipes, everything that actually makes up or lives in this town is gone from that night.”

Residents of Ahrweiler were told to expect the Rhine, a tributary of the Rhine, to reach its peak at 7 meters, but Mailer understands what that means. He said that few people are doing it. The last serious flood in the southern region of Bonn was more than a century ago.

Nearly 200 people were killed and authorities killed 110 in Ahrweiler County alone, making it the most devastated area when heavy rains turned streams into raging torrents in parts of West Germany and Belgium.

Meyer, hoping that number would rise significantly, said the victims came from all walks of life.

“The elderly who died in bed because they couldn’t get up or couldn’t hear. The young man who died a few minutes after helping others. In their car because they wanted to get rid of it when the waves of the flood surprised them. People who died inside. “

The townspeople talked about the tragic incident that delayed their grief as the perception that those who were reported missing would not return began to sink.

Meyer said he was called when a firefighter found the body of a woman he was familiar with.

“My husband knew his wife was in the basement, so he had to wait two days for his wife to recover,” he said.

For now, many residents are focusing on cleanup before tackling the longer task of reconstruction.

“We have to start over,” said Paddy Amanatidis, owner of La Perlapizzeria, when he stopped cleaning rubble from the restaurant.

“We fought over (the coronavirus pandemic), but the floods didn’t beat us,” she said, adding that the solidarity shown by her neighbors and friends helped to raise her spirit. It was.

Meyer believes that even the lucky ones who never lose their loved ones have not been completely hit by the tremendous consequences of the disaster.

“When the first lot (of the wreckage) is removed and people have nothing to do with it, I think many will understand for the first time what they have lost and what it means,” he said. It was.

German authorities rejected allegations They did not properly warn people of the seriousness of the floodHowever, he admitted that he could learn more lessons from the disaster.Experts say global warming may cause Such floods are more frequent..

Upstream of the village of Schuld, which was largely destroyed, Mayor Helmut Russi said the scars would last longer. “Our life changed from one day to the next.” He told German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who visited on Sunday.

Regarding mourning the victims, Meyer says that difficult tasks will require the help of priests throughout the city and beyond.

Aside from the very high death toll, the local graveyards have also been flooded and few tombstones remain, so authorities must consider where to bury them.

The newly refurbished Gothic walls of the 13th-century St. Laurence Church miraculously remained unaffected by the floods, but Meyer has so far continued to walk down the street, helping and compassionate. We will provide ears and crying shoulders.

However, even he is struggling, saying that prayers have been slow to come in the days following the disaster.

“I have no words, no time, no peace,” he said. “I can’t do it now.”

“In the evening, I try to say,’Lord, for some reason you need to take over now.’ That’s enough, “he added.

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