Survivors remember escape and reflect on future after flooding in Europe | WGN 720 radio
PEPINSTER, Belgium (AP) – Paul and Madeline Brasseur were at home with their two sons in the Belgian town of Pepinster when the water “suddenly came in” late in the evening.
It was “like a tsunami,” the way he entered the house and continued to rise instead of backing up, said Paul Brasseur, 42.
The family went upstairs and continued to seek safety through the night as the water steadily rose below them. They found themselves on the roof, watching.
“We started to see buildings collapsing, people on rooftops, buildings collapsing, falling into the water,” said Brasseur.
Eventually, making their way from rooftop to rooftop, they found themselves perched on one with 15 other people, waiting hours for help to arrive. A boat arrived to rescue the children, but it started to take on water as a makeshift jetty began to collapse. Brasseur held back his sons.
“We held on for those nine hours,” said Brasseur, who has lived in Pepinster since the age of 10. “Then it was the citizens, the father of my sons’ best friend who went up to the roofs and saved us too. . “
More than 180 people in Belgium and Germany failed to survive the massive flooding that hit parts of western Europe on Wednesday and Thursday. Thousands of those who did, like the Brewers, found their homes destroyed or badly beaten up.
As the floodwaters receded, attention turned to the mammoth task of repairing the damage caused by the storm-induced downpours – and the immense losses suffered by people in affected areas.
In Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, in western Germany, Andreas Wachtveitel spent Saturday cleaning up debris from his building. The 39-year-old’s home and office was submerged and badly damaged, so he doesn’t know what to do next.
“This is the worst thing that has happened to me,” said Wachtveitel, who was covered in mud. “Thank goodness everyone in our house is still alive, but it was close.”
The sounds of water rushing through the lower floors of his building and screams nearby haunt him, he said.
“We heard screams from the other side,” Wachtveitel said. “There is a clinic and the patients have been trapped.
Franco Romanelli, owner of Pizzeria Roma in the same town, stood outside the restaurant that was his livelihood as workers cleaned up the crumbling furniture.
“It took so long to build the restaurant to get it to where it is,” he said. “And now, after the pandemic, it’s catastrophic. “
“We are not talking about a few thousand euros” to repair the damage, he said. “I did a rough calculation; we are talking about a few hundred thousand euros to rebuild the place.
Romanelli, originally from the Abruzzo region of Italy, arrived in Ahrweiler in 1979 at the age of 15. He said the extent of the damage to his adopted home is devastating.
“If I watch Ahrweiler now, I might cry,” he said. “It’s my house.”
In the Netherlands, thousands of people who evacuated threatened areas on Thursday and Friday began returning home to see the damage on Saturday.
In Brommelen, in the south of the Netherlands, Wiel de Bie found his basement completely flooded. De Bie, 75, had carefully collected decades of old magazines, photos and important documents. They were all in his basement; what has not entirely disappeared is waterlogged and destroyed.
“Emotional value aside, which I find more important, magazines, radio broadcasts from 1960 to 1997 are all gone,” he said, picking up a dripping copy of a 1924 magazine as he was pumping water from the basement.
Down the street, the Kant family’s car was still partially underwater. A single rubber boot floated in their flooded garden. Professor Ijmert Kant, 62, said he was grateful for their safety. Still, he added, the task of cleaning up the debris and fixing their home was daunting.
“Everything is material. Nothing happened. People have been spared, and I really mean it, “Kan said,” But I’m not impatient to have to ask myself, ‘How do I fix this? How does it work with insurance?’ “
In Belgium, Brasseur celebrated its 42nd anniversary on Saturday. The occasion may not have turned out like the day he expected, but the important thing was that his family were safe and together, he said.
“My gift today,” said Brasseurhe, voice broken, “is that my family and all the friends we were with are still alive.”
Emily Schultheis reported from Berlin. Christoph Noelting in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany, and Bram Janssen in Brommelen, the Netherlands, contributed to this report.
Suggest a correction