Rtl today – makeshift camps at night: army of volunteers rebuilds flooded towns in Germany


Instead of loud children’s screams, the halls of the primary school in the German town of Dernau are filled with the deafening sound of a dozen exercises.

The workers there are an army of unpaid volunteers who have taken on the colossal task of rebuilding towns devastated by the deadly floods in western Germany seven weeks ago that swept away homes, offices and infrastructure .

Some are locals or helpers from public organizations like the Red Cross or firefighters, but many others have come from all over the country, helping to clean up debris by day and sleeping in makeshift camps at night.

Although the government has pledged 30 billion euros ($ 35 billion) to fund reconstruction work, residents say most of the aid they receive comes from individuals like the Dernau volunteers.

With less than a month before the general election, politicians “are fighting in the mud, but the real battle in the mud is here – and they are not,” says volunteer Christine Jahn.

Before the floods, Dernau was a picturesque town, framed by steep slopes covered with vineyards. Today, entire streets in the most affected areas are no longer habitable.

The school is no longer usable either: its students now take their lessons elsewhere.

Inside the school, volunteers work to strip flood-damaged walls, eroding a mural painted by schoolchildren depicting the globe.

Two of the people on the site are Rebekka, 22, and her mother Judith, 52, who are working together on the site for the first time this week.

The end of the summer vacation in Germany saw the number of volunteers dwindle, but with more time to waste now, her college exams are over, “I can still do my part,” Rebekka says.

Volunteers are essential to the cleanup, says Judith. “It’s just faster to come here and do it.”

– “Less babbling please” –

The gathering point for the volunteers is a short drive outside of Dernau, in the shadow of a huge Haribo confectionery factory.

Some volunteers sleep here in tents and receive the food, water and materials they need to work in the flooded towns.

Jahn, 66, is in his last week at the camp, having traveled hundreds of kilometers across eastern Germany shortly after the disaster.

A former construction worker, she began by “clearing the mud” and “digging” bottles of wine in flooded cellars.

“I met young people in the first three days and after that we always agreed to meet each other every morning,” says Jahn.

Now she makes sure the volunteers are well supplied, making coffee and sandwiches for hundreds.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit the flood-affected region for the second time on Friday.

But concrete help from politicians was slow to arrive, according to Jahn.

“I want less babbling and more stuff, so that the money arrives without bureaucracy.”

– ‘Our institutions have failed’ –

At the old station of the city, a picturesque building with red lacquered wooden beams, another volunteer, Daniel, was receiving bottles of water.

The station has been transformed into a supply store called “Aunt Emma” (“Aunt Emma”) which is catered for by donations, providing food, essentials and tools to local residents to help them repair their homes. life.

The entrance to the store is filled with nails, screws and water bottles behind a makeshift gas pump.

One of the store’s many managers, Daniel had come to the area with friends five weeks ago and decided to stay.

“I have a new contract in a hospital from December 1, but by then I have time,” says the 29-year-old nurse.

“Without volunteers, nothing here would work,” says Daniel, “our institutions have completely failed.”

“The older the floods, the more help we need,” he said, urging more people to provide help.

Marita, 78, a Dernau resident forced to leave because of the disaster, says: “We don’t get much from the state.

“Most of it comes from individuals and donations,” she says.

While her house is being repaired, Marita moved in with her daughter a two hour drive to Mainz.

She plans to return one day. “This is where our friends are, where we grew up and we will continue to live here.”

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