Residents say flood-hit German towns got little warning

Saturday, July 24, 2021 | Frank Jordans, Associated Press

Workers use heavy machines to tear down a damaged bridge in the flood-hit town of Ahrweiler, Germany, on Friday, July 23, 2021. With the death toll and economic damage from last week’s floods in Germany continuing to rise, questions have been raised about why systems designed to warn people of the impending disaster didn’t work. (AP Photo/Frank Jordans)

AHRWEILER, Germany (AP) — Like other residents of his town in Germany, Wolfgang Huste knew a flood was coming. What nobody told him, he says, was how bad it would be.

The 66-year-old antiquarian bookseller from Ahrweiler said the first serious warning to evacuate or move to higher floors of buildings close to the Ahr River came through loudspeaker announcements around 8 p.m. on July 14. Huste then heard a short emergency siren blast and church bells ringing, followed by silence.

"It was spooky, like in a horror film,” he said.

Huste rushed to rescue his car from an underground garage. By the time he parked it on the street, the water stood knee height. Five minutes later, safely indoors, he saw his vehicle floating down the street. He estimates the losses in his store, where books dating back to the early 1500s were destroyed, at more than 200,000 euros ($235,000).

“The warning time was far too short,” Huste said.

With the confirmed death toll from last week's floods in Germany and neighboring countries passing 210, almost 150 people still missing and the economic cost expected to run into the billions, many have asked why the emergency systems designed to warn people of impending disaster didn't work.

Sirens in some towns failed when the electricity was cut. In other locations, there were no sirens at all; volunteer firefighters had to knock on people's doors to tell them what to do. The German weekly Der Spiegel reported that in one suburb of Wuppertal, north of Cologne, people were warned by a monk ringing a bell.

Huste acknowledged that few could have predicted the speed with which the water would rise and rip through towns. But he pointed across the valley to a building that houses Germany's Federal Office for Civil Protection, where first responders from across the country train for possible disasters.

“In practice, as we just saw, it didn't work, let’s say, as well as it should,” Huste said. “What the state should have done, it didn’t do. At least not until much later.”

German authorities did receive early warnings from the European Flood Awareness System. These made their way through official channels, putting firefighters on heightened alert as well as smartphone users who had installed disaster warning apps, but such apps aren't widely used.

Local officials responsible for triggering disaster alarms in the Ahr valley on the first night of flooding have kept a low profile since the deluge. At least 132 people were killed in the Ahr valley alone.

Authorities in Germany's Rhineland-Palatinate state took charge of the disaster response in the wake of the floods, but they declined to comment on what mistakes might have been made on the night the disaster struck.

“People are looking at a life in ruins here. Some have lost relatives, there were many dead," said Thomas Linnertz, the state official now coordinating the disaster response. “I can understand the anger very well. But on the other hand, I have to say again: This was an event that nobody could have predicted.”

The head of Germany's federal disaster agency BKK, Armin Schuster, acknowledged to public broadcaster ARD that “things didn’t work as well as they could have.”

His agency is trying to determine how many sirens were removed after the end of the Cold War. Germany also plans to adopt a system known as ‘cell broadcast’ that can send alerts to all cellphones in a particular area.

In the town of Sinzig, Heiko Lemke recalled how firefighters came knocking on doors at 2 a.m., long after the floods had caused severe damage upriver in Ahrweiler.

Despite a heavy flood in 2016, nobody had expected the waters of the Ahr River to rise as high as they did in his community, Lemke said.

“They were evacuating people,” he said. “We were totally confused because we thought that wasn't possible.”

Within 20 minutes, water had flooded the ground floor of his family's house, but they decided it was too dangerous to venture out, he said.

“We wouldn't have managed to make it around the corner,” said his wife, Daniela Lemke.

Twelve residents of a nearby assisted living facility for people with disabilities drowned in the flood. Police are probing whether staff at the facility could have done more to save the residents, but so far there is no suggestion that authorities could face a criminal investigation for failing to issue timely warnings.

Experts say such floods will become more frequent and severe due to climate change, and countries will need to adapt, including by revising calculations about future flood risks, improving warning systems and preparing people for similar disasters.

Now that he knows about the flood risk, Heiko Lemke hopes all those things will happen.

“But maybe it would be even better to leave,” he added.


Follow all AP stories on climate change at

7 Forever Stocks That Are Never Bad to Buy

Investors thought 2021 would be a less volatile year. That narrative has run into some problems. Sure, all the major indexes are up for the year. And that’s despite the NASDAQ’s gut-wrenching 10% drop in March.

But many investors don’t feel much like celebrating. In fact, many are concerned about the liquidity that continues to be pumped into the stock market. In 2020, the pandemic flooded the economy with $6 trillion dollars of stimulus.

However, in the last few months, the Federal Reserve has introduced another $6 trillion into the economy. We would have stopped counting, but the math is pretty easy. It’s $12.3 trillion that has flooded into the economy.

Eventually, this is going to end badly. But timing the market is an imperfect science particularly when many investors are enjoying the game.

Fortunately, there’s a way to safeguard your portfolio without abandoning equities. That has to do with investing in forever stocks. Forever stocks aren’t magic beans. They don’t go up forever. But they are stocks that have stood the test of time. And investing in these stocks will keep your portfolio heading in the right direction.

With that in mind, we’ve put together this special presentation that showcases seven of these forever stocks. These are all stocks that are household names, but that’s kind of the point. You don’t need special knowledge. You just have to recognize that these are companies that consistently do right by their shareholders.

View the "7 Forever Stocks That Are Never Bad to Buy".

MarketBeat - Stock Market News and Research Tools logo

MarketBeat empowers individual investors to make better trading decisions by providing real-time financial data and objective market analysis. Whether you’re looking for analyst ratings, corporate buybacks, dividends, earnings, economic reports, financials, insider trades, IPOs, SEC filings or stock splits, MarketBeat has the objective information you need to analyze any stock. Learn more about MarketBeat.

MarketBeat is accredited by the Better Business Bureau

© American Consumer News, LLC dba MarketBeat® 2010-2021. All rights reserved.
326 E 8th St #105, Sioux Falls, SD 57103 | U.S. Based Support Team at [email protected] | (844) 978-6257
MarketBeat does not provide personalized financial advice and does not issue recommendations or offers to buy stock or sell any security.

Our Accessibility Statement | Terms of Service | Do Not Sell My Information

© 2021 Market data provided is at least 10-minutes delayed and hosted by Barchart Solutions. Information is provided 'as-is' and solely for informational purposes, not for trading purposes or advice, and is delayed. To see all exchange delays and terms of use please see disclaimer. Fundamental company data provided by Zacks Investment Research.