MÜSCH, Germany – The bridge that spans the River Ahr was washed away last night around 10:00 a.m., said Michael Stoffels, 32, whose own home was inundated with about 12 feet of water.
Müsch, a village of 220 people at the confluence of the Ahr and Trierbach rivers, was ravaged by flash floods that inundated this part of Germany. Only one person died, but Müsch on Friday night was without electricity, running water or cell phone coverage.
Residents and their friends were trying to clean up their battered houses, cracked streets and crumbling cars. Local firefighters, like Nils Rademacher, 21, handled the traffic of bulldozers, small trucks and backhoes, while advising drivers that the roads further down the river valley were blocked by trees or made impassable by fallen bridges.
“A lot of good cars have crashed or been crashed,” said Maria Vazquez, who works in a nearby auto repair shop. “I work with cars, so it’s sad, but I just hope everyone’s okay.”
The water rose to flood the village in less than two hours on Wednesday and rose halfway up the houses, Ms Vazquez said.
The riverbanks were scenes of devastation, with crushed cars and thick tree stumps, while many cobbled streets were covered in mud and debris. Trucks filled with broken furniture, tree branches and pieces of stone rolled slowly over broken power lines.
The yellow traffic sign that tells drivers they have entered Müsch has been pulled out of the ground, bent and almost adrift in the Trierbach river.
Mr Stoffels said he had not received any warning from the government, but had rushed home from the retail store he operates nearby when a neighbor called. He’s been lucky, he said, as he has storage downstairs and his living space is upstairs. The children’s play area next to his house along the Ahr was destroyed, as was the village’s power station, even before the bridge was washed away.
He and his brother, who traveled 100 miles to help, and his friends, all wearing muddy boots and clothes, were trying to clean up as best they could. It helped, he said, that Müsch, in the Ahrweiler district in Rhineland-Palatinate, near the border with North Rhine-Westphalia, is an agricultural country.
“Almost everyone has a small tractor or some bulldozer,” he said. And it was true – local firefighters were there, but there was little government presence, residents said. On Thursday Mr Stoffels said: “a few soldiers came for a while and a policeman looked around”.
Nearby, larger villages and towns have been devastated and more than 1,000 people are reported missing by the authorities.
Roger Lewentz, Minister of the Interior of Rhineland-Palatinate, could not give the exact number of missing in his state.
“We don’t yet know for sure whether some of them may be on vacation or simply unavailable. After all, electrical and telephone connections are cut in many affected places, ”he told Der Spiegel.
“There hasn’t been a flood like this here for 100 years,” said Sebastian Stich, 28, an office worker from Barweiler, who came to help his neighbors. “The bridges, the power, it’s all gone. “