“Two hundred year floods in 11 years are too much.” Those are the comments made by the mayor of the small town in Saxony called Grimma, after the Mulde rose and smashed the previous record set in 2002 a couple days ago. These words have been echoing around the flooded areas of Germany, where at the present time, as many as 8 of the German states are underwater or fighting the floods. In many cities throughout the country, new hundred year flood records were set with more yet to come as high waters of the Elbe, Rhine and Danube Rivers continue to rise, displacing tens of thousands of residents. While German chancellor Angela Merkel visited the areas affected yesterday, including the cities of Greiz, Chemnitz and Passau and has promised to provide millions of Euros in relief to businesses and residents affected by the floods, newspapers have reported that the damage and loss amounts are expected to be exorbitant. In Thuringia alone, an estimated one billion Euros is expected to be used to repair and rebuild areas affected by the floods. There, the situation has improved as water levels of the White Elster, Gera and Saale Rivers have decreased steadily in the past two days.
If the trend continues in the coming days and weeks, it is expected that the Great Flood of 2013 will be the worst flooding ever on record in Europe (both in terms of costs as well as the size of areas affected), even eclipsing the Great Floods of 1993, 2008 and 2011 in the United States. Already, many cities have set new records with more to follow. Here are some examples:
Passau: At the junction of the Danube, Inn and Itz Rivers, the town of 50,000 has had a history of record floods with the worst being set in 1501 at 12.22 meters. This was smashed on Monday by 65 centimeters, even though levels could have reached the 13 or even 14 meter mark given the rasant rise of the rivers. All of the old town is meters under water and it will be a couple of weeks before the rivers return to their banks and people can return to their homes and businesses to look at the damage done by the floods. With its proximate location at the rivers, it is likely that drastic measures will have to be taken to ensure that such a disatser, which featured the city cutting power drinking water supplies and people being forced to evacuate, never repeats itself. Yet no matter what action is taken, it will be costly for the city and all of Bavaria. Floodwaters are expected to reach Regensburg, located northwest of the city, where it will crest at 6.8 meters, smashing a 130-year old record. Already people are being evacuated and sandbags are being used to keep the floodwaters out of the city center.
Halle (Saale): Even the town in Saxony-Anhalt with best-kept secret could not avoid the floodwaters, as the Saale River flooded its banks and portions of the suburb Neustadt and the city center are underwater as of present. The city, where Georg Friedrich Handel was born, set a new record this morning as water levels reached 8.05 meters. This was the first time water levels were that high in 400 years. Workers are trying feverishly to strengthen the dikes to minimalize the effects of the flooding. The annual Handel Music Festival, scheduled for this weekend, was cancelled due to flooding. The author was there for the Christmas market last December and you can view the article here. Yet keep in mind, the famous cathedral and market square shown in the pictures, are all under water at this time. Not a great sight for people like Handel.
Dresden: The people in Dresden are also scrambling to ensure that a repeat of the 2002 floods doesn’t happen again. During the last flood, the waters of the Elbe River set an all time mark of 9.4 meters, flooding 90% of the old town and low-lying areas. While lessons have been learned from this disaster and flood barriers have been built to withstand future floods, it is unknown whether it will help this time. At the moment, the river is at 8.43 meters and increasing by the hour. It is expected to crest by tomorrow. People are waiting and praying that the 11-year old record is not broken.
Magdeburg and Lauenburg: Yet even when the flooding in Saxony is over (but after breaking records in many cities affected), residents in cities along the Elbe River are preparing for the worst and expecting the Elbe to set new records. In Magdeburg, north of Halle (Saale), the river is expected to creat at 6.9 meters, breaking an all-time record set in 2002 by 18 centemeters. In Lauenburg in Schleswig-Holstein, located southeast of Hamburg, the community is expected to break its own record of eight meters by 80 centimeters by the weekend. The eight meter mark was set two years ago, when rains in the northern half caused flooding in that area.
Even as the flooding has passed in areas like western Saxony and Thuringia, the waters have left their mark in many places, with multiple bridges destroyed, houses and schools sustaining damage and even sports complexes and stadiums being considered not useable at the moment. While the roads are reopened to traffic and many people are returning to their homes, many are facing the daunting task of rebuilding from the bottom up. Yet for some who have lived through the flooding twice in 11 years, some difficult decisions will be made to determine whether living next to a river is a good idea, or if it makes sense to start over on higher ground. While some cities, like Fargo-Moorhead have taken the initiative to buy out homes located along major rivers to construct dikes and waterways to divert floodwaters away from the city center, such projects would be too costly over here given the geographical ciscumstances. Therefore the decision on what to do next lies solely on the people affected.
The Flensburg Files is taking stories of people affected by the Great Flood of 2013 in the English language. If you have a story about the flood that you would like to share with the reader, please send it to Jason Smith at email@example.com and it will be posted. Your name will be annonymous if requested. Photos are welcome and highly encouraged.
Links to the flooding with photos can be found here: