Flood holds Germany its breath

(by Saskia Schink)

Hurricanes, tsunamis, floods – these are natural disasters, we hear regularly about from all around the world. Even in Europe there are every now and then such disasters, and even if they do not suppose the same dimensions, the suffering of those affected is as large. Germany currently struggling with heavy flooding in many areas, which let the memories come up to the ‘Elbe flood of the century’ in the year 2002. On the social networks, such as Twitter or Facebook, citizens organize themselves to help in the affected areas.

With the founder of the Facebook page “Hochwasser in Brandenburg” I have talked about the current situation and his assessment about it. Out of respect for his desire for anonymity he is appointed in the following interview just as Mister K.!



Mister K., according to information provided by the Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB) the forced evacuation of the town Mühlberg/Elbe was arranged at noon today after the Elbe crest reached the town. How is the current situation there and do you know how many people have complied with this request?

According to my information from some firefighters there, they have given up the fight. The volunteer fire departments and the German Armed Forces have ended the mission by 18 o’clock and go back to their stations. How many people complied with the request, we do not know.

Meanwhile the press published precise figures and said that about two-thirds of the inhabitants have left the city after the case of disaster was declared. The police ensure that no unauthorized persons enter the city and make plundering. The dyke systems will be backed up makeshift to avoid any major damage to the houses.

It is thus calculated with dyke breaks which will cause some damage in the city. As perhaps generally known the Household insurance usually does not cover any costs for damage caused by flood. Remain those affected now sitting alone on their costs or will there be some support? From politicians, etc.?

According to the politicians who are on the spot they have assured support to the victims, but as we know the politicians, they will not help in my opinion. Ultimately, most people will be stuck with the cost and even have to pay for themselves. But a lot of people offer to help on Facebook. So many people who want to help, I have never seen; even people sitting in a wheelchair try to help and  give information to the fire department.

So bravely fight the flood helpers: Ronald Zeiler (48) shovels sand bags in Halle.

So bravely fight the flood helpers: Ronald Zeiler (48) shovels sand bags in Halle.

Where you just broach Facebook, I am thereby become aware of you. As how important you see the role of social networks in such a time of crisis?

Due Facebook and other virtual media, it is of course very easy to share information and it is also faster than the radio and the TV. In my opinion it is the second best support you can offer; we can provide coordination and assistance there.

Some of my friends have participated in precisely these Facebook appointments and went to other cities to help in filling sandbags there. How is the current situation in other cities of Brandenburg, for example Cottbus or Frankfurt / Oder?

Cottbus currently has some problems, but there the level values ​​are stable. At the Spreewald the catastrophe alarm has been triggered and many places are impassable. The Neisse River calms down towards Guben. I can not say what it looks like in other cities currently.

The Spreewald is a protected biosphere reservation and it is one of the most popular destinations in Brandenburg. But it is currently prohibited by proclamation of case of catastrophe, to drive with all types of boats on the entire channels and Spree-branches.

In Brandenburg, there are next to Frankfurt / Oder few other cities that are close to the border with Poland and are affected. Do you have information on measures of mutual assistance and cooperation between German and Polish authorities and aid workers?

Because I live near Guben/Gubin (Note by the author: Guben / Gubin, as well as Frankfurt / Oder, is separated only by a river from Poland.) I can say that both sides, Germany and Poland, try all to keep the dams. At the moment, the level of Neisse River drops.

Then a few final questions: Mister K., how do you evaluate personally the current situation in Brandenburg? And how do you see the prospects for the next few days? Is a similar extent as the Elbe flood of the century in 2002 expected in your opinion?

In my opinion the situation in some cities is really dramatic. However, the media tell so much, that people already panic when they turn on the TV. A similar extent as in 2002 will not be in my opinion.

Brandenburg’s Minister President Matthias Platzeck admonishes to rest, there is no reason to panic, but the situation should be viewed with healthy caution.

Summing up, the German population has indeed to face with a flood disaster that already also called first deaths and damaged houses, but it will probably not have the same dimensions as 11 years ago. This is particularly due to the measures taken after this flood of the century, which for example includes the construction of protective walls and dykes, but also due to the timely interventions and meetings of precautions by the population.

(Interview performed at 07.06.2013)


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