After a dyke burst near the 120,000-person community, water levels rose to a record-breaking eight metres. The town flooded and in places buildings are two metres underwater, Der Spiegel news magazine reported on Friday.
And as Bavarian state premiere Horst Seehofer circled above in a helicopter, what he saw left him struggling for words. “It’s indescribably awful. It surpasses any expectations,” he told the news magazine. For those there, working to help the 50 people refusing to leave their houses, the situation is even less comprehensible.
In the Fischerdorf area of the town, water has replaced ground, covered fences and is lapping at second-storey windows. Hiding in upper floors some refused to evacuate: scared of looting and not wanting to leave their lives behind.
“I can understand it,” Florian Uhlmann told Der Spiegel. He has been driving one of the 20 boats around the town which have been checking up on and bringing supplies to the remaining few for the past six nights. With no street lights, and little electricity, this is a dangerous job.
The water smells like the oil that has leaked out from heating systems. Debris clogs up the water, threatening to hit the patrol boats’ motors. Even the fire station is underwater. Entire car dealerships have seen millions of euros worth of vehicles destroyed, Die Welt newspaper said.
Slowly, the water level is dropping and on Thursday in places looked to have sunk by 50 centimetres. The Danube, which lies right next to the town, is gradually beginning to recede.
Yet at the moment, getting from Deggendorf to Munich takes three hours while normally it takes just one. This is making getting clean up supplies difficult, and all roads going south are shut.
Only a few emergency vehicles are allowed through. Regional authorities are widely citing transport as being a bigger problem at this point than the water itself, said the Passauer Neue Presse regional paper.
“It brings me to tears,” district administrator Christian Bernreiter told Die Welt, who has seen 11 surrounding villages evacuated on Friday morning alone. Twenty one areas had already been told to clear out, with police storming in, armed with loud speakers, sirens wailing.
Help is at hand, luckily, for Deggendorf as the Bavarian Red Cross (BRK) is out in force and families can now get €1,500 instantly. The federal government has given Lower Bavaria €20.5 million already to give to those in need. Small businesses can get up to €5,000.
Volunteers are donating money and supplies, and even helping to pump out cellars. “The readiness to help is magnificent,” BRK branch head Leonhard Stärk told Die Welt. “One family has donated an entire kitchen to their neighbours who saw theirs destroyed.”
“We have the situation under control right now but anything can happen at any time,” district administrator Peter Erl said. More rain has been forecast but at this point, said Erl, the weather no longer makes a difference.