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FLOODS

One year on: How life has changed for German flood survivors

Nearly a year ago, pounding rain turned the River Ahr, a tributary of the Rhine in western Germany, into a torrent of water that swept everything before it. For those who survived the deadly flood, life changed dramatically. Here are three of their stories.

Petrol station owner Carina Dewald with her son Elias and niece Mara in Dernau in Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany, on July 7th 2022, almost one year after the region was devastated by floods.
Petrol station owner Carina Dewald with her son Elias and niece Mara in Dernau in Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany, on July 7th 2022, almost one year after the region was devastated by floods. Photo: Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

Solidarity

“My dog, my mobile phone and some T-shirts.” That was all Anke Barteit, 57, managed to take with her as the waters rose.

For the past year, Barteit has been living in a small wooden hut in a temporary village erected for flood victims until they can return to their
homes.

Her 30-square-metre “tiny house” is located in a car park in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, one of the towns worst affected by the floods.

Sitting on the terrace outside her makeshift home, Barteit counts her blessings as she looks out across the valley with its forests and lush
vineyards.

The floods unleashed an outpouring of solidarity in Germany, she says.  Strangers she met on Facebook provided the cutlery, sheets, towels and other essential items for her new home.

READ ALSO: Volunteer army rebuilds Germany’s flood-stricken towns

Anke Barteit holds a sign that reads 'solidarity is the rope that holds when everything else fails' in her tiny house in Bad Neuenahr in Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany, almost one year after the region was devastated by floods.

Anke Barteit holds a sign that reads ‘solidarity is the rope that holds when everything else fails’ in her tiny house in Bad Neuenahr in Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany, almost one year after the region was devastated by floods. Photo: Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

Barteit lives alone with her dog Buddy, who she says “saved her life” on the night of July 14th.

The Bichon Maltese woke her up by barking as the water began to pour into her home near the river Ahr.

Barteit, who is recovering from lung cancer diagnosed in 2018, is hoping to return to her home in September, a moment she says will feel like a “dream come true”.

Homeless and jobless

From her temporary office in a small portable cabin, Carina Dewald does the admin for the only petrol station in the village of Dernau.

A year ago, Dewald, her husband, their seven-year-old son and her parents-in-law spent the night on the roof of their house before being
airlifted to safety.

When AFP met her a few days after the disaster, Dewald, now 40, described herself as “technically homeless and unemployed”.

The petrol station where she worked with her husband was razed to the ground, and her house was left uninhabitable as waters from the river Ahr rose to the window ledges on the first floor.

Dewald and her husband “quickly took the decision… to get the station up and running again”, helped by a €70,000 insurance payout, she says.

An architect’s drawing of the building that will eventually be their new office hangs on the wall.

The Dewald family home is still being renovated after a long battle with their insurance company.

Returning to live in the middle of a flood zone doesn’t faze them, though Dewald is hoping the flood warning system will work better if it happens again. “We don’t overthink things,” she laughs.

On July 14th, 2021, the Dewalds’ petrol station remained open until 9pm – less than three hours before torrents of water began sweeping
through the town.

READ ALSO: Why have so many died in the German floods?

Mud-smeared wine bottles

In the cellars of Peter Kriechel’s vineyard in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, the barrels are lined up, the steel vats are gleaming and everything is ready for the 2022 harvest.

A tasting room next door is buzzing with visitors.

It’s a far cry from this time last year, when the cellar was completely filled with water.

In the Ahr valley, known for the pinot noir that grows on its steep slopes, the economy relies significantly on wine production and the tourism it
generates.

Winemaker Peter Kriechel stands in his wineyard in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler in Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany.

Winemaker Peter Kriechel stands in his wineyard in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler in Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany. Photo: Ina FASSBENDER / AFP
 

After the floods, the region’s winegrowers raised 4.5 million euros by selling 180,000 mud-smeared bottles of wine rescued from their cellars.

“It helped us all enormously,” says Kriechel, who wants to take the idea further by venturing “into the next dimension, the metaverse”.

A selection of remaining bottles numbered from 1 to 99 are still to be auctioned off – including number 14, the day of the floods.

That special bottle will be sold in the form of an NFT, a digital token that can be used to represent the ownership of unique items.

By Jean-Philippe LACOUR

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WEATHER

‘Clear indication of climate change’: Germany logs warmest year on record

Looking at data from 2,000 measuring systems around Germany, the German Weather Service (DWD) said that 2022 marked the warmest year on record through November.

'Clear indication of climate change': Germany logs warmest year on record

“Never since 1881 has the period from January to November in Germany been so warm as in 2022,” said DWD spokesman Uwe Kirsche in a statement on Wednesday.

The average temperature for the first eleven months of 2022 was 11.3C, according to the weather service in Offenbach. The previous high was set in 2020, at 11.1C for this period. 

The temperature average for autumn alone was 10.8 degrees – an entire 2C degrees higher than it was between 1961 to 1990, which is used by meteorologists around the globe as a point of reference. 

Clear indication of climate change

The period from January to October was already the warmest on record, with an average temperature of 11.8C. For meteorologists, autumn ends with November, whereas in calendar terms, it lasts until December 21st. 

It is “a clear indication of climate change;” that the warmest October months of the last 140 years all fall in this millennium, said DWD.

READ ALSO: ‘A glimpse into our climate future’: Germany logs warmest October on record

Autumn 2022 could have easily been mistaken for summer in some regions of Germany, it said. The mercury reached the highest in Kleve on the Lower Rhine on September 5th, where temperatures soared to a sizzling 32.3C.

weather Germany september

Beach goers in Westerland, Schleswig-Holstein on September 25th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Molter

Rainy regions

The mild weather extended into November, before temperatures took a dramatic dip in many parts of the country. 

In the Oberharz am Brocken, the mercury dropped all the way to -11.6C on November 20th, the nationwide low for this autumn.

READ ALSO: Germany to see first snowfall after mild November

But despite the early warm spells, autumn was also “slightly wetter than average,” according to DWD. An average of around 205 liters of precipitation per squar metre fell across Germany.

That was about twelve percent more than in the reference period from 1961 to 1990. Compared to 1991 to 2020, the increase was about eight percent.

The Black Forest and the Alps received the most rainfall. Utzenfeld in the southern Black Forest had the highest daily precipitation in Germany with 86 litres per square meter on October 14th. In contrast, it remained very dry in the northeast. 

However, there were also a fair few bright, sunny days for people to enjoy. According to DWD, the sun shone for a good 370 hours this autumn – almost 20 percent more than in the period from 1961 to 1990 and 15 percent more than in the period from 1991 to 2020.

The North German Lowlands saw the most sun, with residents there getting a solid 400 hours of sunshine over autumn. 

Temperatures to drop this week

Just in time for the start of the meteorological winter on December 1st, temperatures will drop significantly into the low negatives in many parts of the country.

On the weekend, there is a risk of permafrost in some regions of eastern Germany. The nights will also become increasingly frosty, with snow expected in many regions by the end of the week.

Roads are expected to turn icy, but with no major snowstorms, said DWD.

READ ALSO: Will Germany see more snow this winter?

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