Clean-up underway in Bavaria after heavy floods wreak havoc

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.

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

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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Germany set for scorching temperatures up to 30C

After days of summery weather, temperatures in Germany are set to peak at around 30C this week before a cooler spell over the weekend.

Germany set for scorching temperatures up to 30C

After a long spell of sunny weather, most parts of Germany could see summer arrive early this week with clear blue skies and sweltering temperatures – but the hot weather may not last long, according to meteorologists.

Heat and sunshine should last through the middle of the week but suddenly give way to cooler temperatures over the weekend, the German Weather Service (DWD) predicts.

On Tuesday, most regions see temperatures in the mid to high 20s and a continuation of the dry weather of the past week. In the northeast, including Berlin, the mercury could reach 28C, and temperatures are likely to be between 22C and 28C across western and central areas.

Those in higher altitude regions of the south and those along the north coast should be the only people needing their rain jackets as this part of the country could see scattered showers and clouds, according to DWD.

Wednesday is the day to plan a lake trip as this is likely to be the hottest day of the week. 

Most parts of the country will stay sunny and dry throughout the day and people can expect summery temperatures of between 24C and 30C.

For those on the north coast, it’s likely to be a little chillier, with temperatures of around 15C and partly overcast skies.

Thursday and Friday are likely to bring with them cooler temperatures, with the hot spell giving way to scattered showers and clouds in many regions over the weekend.

On Saturday, southern regions will see highs up of up to 23C while the northern regions will slip down to 18C during the day.

But anyone planning to be out and about on Saturday evening in the south should bring a warm jacket as the mercury could drop as low as 4C. 

Sunny weather Standbad Lübars

A woman enjoys the warm weather at Standbad Lübars in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Britta Pedersen

Northern regions ‘too dry’ 

Though most people have been thrilled to see a warm burst of sunshine in the middle of spring, climate experts have been voicing concern about the uneven rainfall across the country.

In an analysis published on the DWD website, the meteorologists claimed that the northern and eastern parts of Germany have been “clearly too dry” in the past weeks.

“A first glance at the current map already reveals that the regional differences of April have continued in May,” they wrote. “In almost all regions of the northern half and in some parts of the centre, hardly more than 10 and in many places not even 5 litres of rain per square-metre fell in the first days of May.”

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

Though experts had predicted low rainfall, the first 10 days of May have been even drier than predicted.

The lack of rainfall has caused groundwater to dry up significantly, sparking fears of forest fires and drought over summer.

Though more rainfall could come at the end of May, the Weather Channel’s Jan Schenk believes the probability of an overly dry summer is now “very high”.

Schenk believes that predictions for rainfall could have overestimated the amount of precipitation by up to 50 litres per square metre in some areas. This is a reason for households to start saving water now, he told HNA