Surprise, then panic: the water that attacked the streets and basements of the picturesque village of Mayen, in Germany, spent the night a night of anxiety for the residents, still echoed by the “heat” and rage of the waves.
If the city of almost 20,000 inhabitants, located between green hills, does not mourn the casualties, heavy rains and floods that hit West Germany have left at least 42 dead and dozens missing., The worst weather conditions in the country for decades.
“No one expected that. Where does the rain come from? It’s madness. It made such a noise. At the speed that happened, we thought: the door will go soon. It will collapse,” testified Annemarie Müller on Thursday, who was met by an AFP journalist after a sleepless night.
Torrential rains swelled the Nette River, a tributary of the Rhine that the city usually crosses peacefully with its medieval architecture.
– Fire station –
“We sat on the balcony and watched the net overflow, there was nothing more we could do. As long as it’s not about life, it’s still bearable,” the 65-year-old pensioner sighs, thinking about her flooded garden.
Street garages are inaccessible; the water, which has already begun to flow back, still reaches knee height.
“We were lucky,” says her neighbor Andrea Schär: “The basement was completely flooded and the water on the ground floor rose 4 inches above the ground. It was fast, in 20 minutes. The basement was full,” the 55-year-old woman testified.
Villagers claim they “never experienced it”. Many marvel at the speed with which the water rose.
“We already experienced extreme floods in 2016, but they far exceeded them. We were prepared and we had structures built. But you can never be 100% ready for such events …”, notes Uli Walsdorf, deputy chief of firefighters in Mayenu.
Even local firefighters were reduced to pumping water from the barracks basement.
– Demolished houses –
It is the most common activity on the streets of Mayen on Thursday mornings.
Ortrud Meyer, a 36-year-old educator, is also trying to drain the water from her basement.
He has been living in Mayen for 6 years, he knows well what a floodplain is and that is why there are no valuables in the basement. “We are aware of the danger, but we have never seen anything like it, she assures. My stepfather is almost 80 years old, he is from Mayen and says he has never experienced anything like it.”
Residents are aware that they have fled much worse: less than 50 kilometers from their home, the Arweihler district is paying a heavy price for this extremely bad weather: 18 deaths have been counted there, and many people remain missing.
In the village of Schuld, which was also crossed by a river, houses simply collapsed, under the violence of the waves and several people died.
Locals are expected to continue until Friday before a lull this weekend.