Logo
Cover

Give them a shovel

A week after the devastating floods in West Germany, it is becoming increasingly clear how much parts of politics and administration are in Wandlitz. While farmers, contractors and volunteers from all over Germany are tackling the ground and doing superhuman things, there is pure chaos on the upper level and an almost incomprehensible arrogance and ignorance. The media once again show their ugly face. Their biggest concern seems to be that the helpers don’t wear FFP2 masks. The arrival of the first “vaccination bus” was cheered accordingly. The fact that until recently there were no Dixi-Klos and water for those affected and the helpers, probably plays a minor role.

If you want to get an impression of the clean-up work on site, the Facebook channel of the Cologne farmer Markus Wipperfürth is recommended. Like many, many other farmers, Wipperfürth set out with his tractor to the flood areas shortly after the flood disaster to help tackle and help. For six days he has been filming his impressions from the village of Walporzheim near Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, talking to local residents and helpers on site and sending these videos as live streams on Facebook. These films allow an impression of one deeply touched and deeply dismayed.

The solidarity shown in the disaster area by the victims themselves as well as by the many helpers is touching and impressive. There are women from Bavaria who provide the helpers with donated food on site, young people and children who offer coffee to the helpers with the Bollerwagen or a Frisian agricultural machinery technician who has set off with his service cart to provide the farmers on site with urgently needed repair work on their agricultural machinery used as a clearing device. And these are just three small examples. The solidarity is truly overwhelming. Fortunately, those who have thought that there is no more solidarity in the face of the ongoing division of society are better informed in the face of these images. Below the article we have linked some videos that give a rough insight into the work on site, which is done by volunteers without pay and without instruction on their own. This is really fantastic. You have to bow deeply to these people.

On the other hand, however, one also gets the dismaying impression that this cannot be transferred to the management and coordination level. As bitter as it is – on the ground, the state is failing all along the line. In the first three days there was neither water nor a Dixi toilet for the victims and the helpers, the responsible persons were completely busy with the organization of the vaccination bus. The volunteers, who came from all over Germany, were seen in the first days not as welcome help, but as a problem. Thus, entire units of the volunteer fire brigades were sent away again by the crisis team and helpers, some of whom came with their own heavy equipment, were not allowed through. Anyone who wanted to help and contacted the official hotline did not even get an answer. And whoever came through and received an answer was told that they did not need it. From the circles of the district councils it was even communicated that the helpers were perceived as a"disturbance". Those who did not let themselves be deterred, work on site self-organized and on their own. In the first days, it was almost exclusively farmers with their equipment and numerous contractors who took the important work into their own hands, while countless firefighters and THW volunteers, all of whom wanted to help, waited en masse at the Nürburgring and were not deployed.

The fish stinks from the head, mind you. It was not due to the highly motivated forces themselves, but to the planning and organizational chaos and the struggle for competence that the “state” aid did not advance. While politicians in rubber boots made a long face in front of a gathered press, those who really help on the ground did not get help from above and often even stones were put in their way. Although millions of euros in aid were quickly mobilized by politicians, whether and how this money reaches the helpers is still open. By the way, this is not about paying the helpers. However, it is a matter of compensating for the pure material costs, which quickly run into the thousands, especially for the necessary heavy equipment.

And it is about tasks that the volunteers can hardly take on themselves-such as the recovery of corpses and the necessary professional pastoral care. It is still almost only private people, supported by private companies, who help with heavy equipment and repeatedly come across dead people. For example, according to an interview, with n-tv, a 25-year-old excavator operator had to stop his relief work after he discovered the body of a little girl on his shovel and then constantly had dead children in front of him.

The insert looks chaotic. There are too many heads who are or want to be in charge. It is unclear who is responsible for what. The Bundeswehr? The state police or the federal police? Civil protection? The fire department? The Red Cross? The THW? There is no superordinate body that acts as a coordinator. In addition, there was and is a lack of professional forces. The superiors failed. The state helpers are frustrated in part because they are always waiting for orders. I also constantly ask myself: What are you doing there.

Accordingly, a farmer also speaks of a failure at management level. It is surprising that these grievances hardly play a role in media coverage. There, they prefer to work on the very big issues such as climate change or completely abstruse debates about digital warning systems. When you get through to talk to the helpers on site, it seems to be only about finding out whether there are also “lateral thinkers” among the helpers. It’s just sad. Perhaps the responsible gentlemen and ladies from politics should simply be given a kick in the hand and ordered to “volunteer” aid.