Clean-up underway in Bavaria after heavy floods wreak havoc

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Clean-up underway in Bavaria after heavy floods wreak havoc
Markus Söder, Bavaria's state premier, stands in front of the remains of the toboggan and bobsleigh track in Königsee on Monday July 19th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Felix Hörhager

Storms and floods left the world-famous Königsee bobsleigh and toboggan track in ruins. Now, as the heavy rain subsides, the clean-up operation in southern and eastern Bavaria has begun.


The situation has stabilised in the state somewhat as experts forecast sunny weather, but the district of Berchtesgaden near the Austrian border is still dealing with the devastating consequences of the rainstorms.

The small town of Schönau am Königssee was especially badly hit by floods overnight on Sunday. Its beloved toboggan and bobsleigh track was ripped from its foundations by gushing ravines up in the mountains.


"We could never have anticipated this," Thomas Schwab, General Director of the German Bobsleigh and Toboggan Association told regional radio station BR24. 

The iconic track, which has been around for five decades, was known worldwide as a training ground for winter-sport world champions and Olympic athletes. 

READ ALSO: Two dead as flooding hits German states of Saxony and Bavaria

Writing on Twitter, winter sports journalist Ken Childs said the track had hosted "some of the best racing the world has seen". 

Olympic toboggan champion Felix Loch told BR24 that he feared the track could not be rebuilt - or that it would take years to do so.

"The track has been there for a long time and there were always conflicts around it," he said. "It costs a lot of money and it was always facing headwinds and opposition from various interests." 

READ ALSO: IN PICTURES: The aftermath of Germany’s catastrophic floods

On Monday, the Technical Relief Organisation (THW) and the army were brought on site with heavy equipment to clear rubble and debris from kilometre-long road that led to the buried start house.

Markus Aschauer, operations manager of the Königssee Ice Arena, was pictured talking to soldiers next to the wreckage, while Bavarian state premier Markus Söder (CDU) and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) also visited the site to assess the damage.

Markus Aschauer, operations manager at the Ice Area in Königsee, speaks to soldiers in front of the ruined remains of the toboggan run. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

Söder meets traumatised flood victim

On his visit to Schönau am Königssee, Söder and Scholz were approached by a distraught resident who had lost everything in the floods. 

Visibly in shock, the woman had to be supported by two other people as she wept and asked the two politicians for help.  

"We can help with that, we really can help," Söder told her. "Nobody will be left on their own." 

As the rain fell over the weekend, residents of the small Bavarian town were forced to leave their homes overnight as an emergency measure.

Most have now been able to return, though three properties are now uninhabitable due to the scale of the damage. 

Since catastrophic floods first struck western Germany on Wednesday, several funds have been set up to support those affected. Politicians are also said to be considering a €400 million emergency aid packet to assist those who have lost their homes and belongings nationwide. 



Brighter weather forecast eases floods fears 

After the horror of the weekend, weather experts have forecast dry, sunny weather over the coming days - meaning many residents of Bavaria can breathe a sigh of relief. 

In the city of Passau, the water levels along the Danube rose to 8.18 metres on Monday, just 32cm short of breaching the highest water level ('Stage 4') of over 8.5 metres. 

But with the sun breaking through the rainclouds, experts and residents are now hopeful that it won't reach that critical mark.

However, the parts of Bavaria worst-hit by the floods - Berchtesgaden, Schönau am Königssee, Ramsau, Bischofswiesen und Markt Schellenberg - are still attempting to repair the terrifying destruction to homes and businesses, and mourning the loss of two lives. 

Environmental experts are also surveying the landscape around Schönau to assess the risk of landslides. 

Meanwhile, the authorities in Munich have banned residents from swimming or boating in the Isar river until the high water levels subside. Taking to the water would mean risking "life and limb", they said in a statement.



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