Torrential rains on July 15 led to rivers bursting their banks the following days, destroying towns around the region. Places to where my friends’ parents have retired are completely wiped out, villages we’ve hiked through no longer exist, horse farms we’ve ridden at devastated, a highway we drive to get to field hockey games and lake swimming was buried when a normally quiet, nearly dry creek overflowed and swept cars away. I spent a few days reporting on the flooding for The Guardian and The Observer.
My Day One report from Erftstadt (with editor Philip Oltermann)
Familiar landscape turned into treacherous terrain: a gravel quarry south of Blessem, 40 hectares (99 acres) wide and 60 metres deep, rapidly filled with water, its edge expanding towards the town through headward erosion, swallowing up several cars, three half-timbered buildings and parts of a castle.
“It looks like a bomb went off. Everything’s destroyed. There’s nothing left of the city centre,” said Michaela Wolff, a winemaker from one of the German towns worst hit by last week’s catastrophic flooding.