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German Churches offer support as floods death toll rises

16 July 2021


Firefighters stand in rubble in the spa town of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Rhineland-Palatinate, on Friday morning

Firefighters stand in rubble in the spa town of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Rhineland-Palatinate, on Friday morning

REPRESENTATIVES of Germany’s two main Churches have expressed their horror at the severe flooding in the south-western part of the country, in which rivers and streams burst their banks after long periods of heavy rain. So far, there are at least 100 dead in Germany, and more than a thousand are still unaccounted for.

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is on a visit to Washington. Speaking at the White House on Thursday, she said that the day was “characterised by fear, by despair, by suffering, and hundreds of thousands of people all of a sudden were faced with catastrophe. . .

“My empathy and my heart goes out to all of those who in this catastrophe lost their loved ones, or who are still worrying about the fate of people still missing.”

She called for a determined battle against climate change, it was reported. And she assured the German people that their government would not “leave you alone in this difficult, terrible hour”.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Trier, the Rt Revd Stephan Ackermann, whose large diocese includes some of the worst hit areas in Rhineland-Palatinate, where streets, houses, and entire towns have been completely under water, wrote on Facebook on Thursday: “It is with horror that I hear the news and see the pictures from the parts of our diocese affected by the storm and in the neighbouring areas.

“We are all concerned for the people who live and work in the affected places. My thoughts are with the deceased and missing, with their relatives, friends, and family. So many have been affected by damage and loss. And still the situation is confusing and dramatic.”

Church aid organisations, emergency chaplains, and parishes are working side by side with local authorities and the fire brigade in rescue efforts.

On the Facebook site of the diocese of Trier, two RC parishes were offering their parish residences as emergency accommodation.

The president of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland, Dr Thorsten Latzel, expressed his “deep sorrow at the suffering caused by last night’s storm. . . People have died, houses have collapsed, cellars have flooded, firefighters have died trying to help. Together with many others, I pray for those affected and the helpers.

“At the same time, I am grateful for the help that is now being provided in a very practical way in our communities and churches: from neighbourly help with draining the water, to bread rolls and warm coffee, to pastoral support, for example through the emergency chaplaincy.”

The president of the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the Bishop of Limburg, Dr Georg Bätzing, said: “I am deeply dismayed by the extent of the severe storms. Water is life. Here, water is death. My thoughts are with the deceased, their relatives, all the injured and victims of the floods. Many people are still missing — I sincerely hope that they will be found unharmed, and that all those in need, who have lost their belongings or the roof over their heads, will receive comfort, hope and help.”

The chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, wrote: “My thoughts are very much with all the people who have been affected by the dreadful rains and the resulting floods these days.”

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