My husband asked for a new hole-punch for his last birthday. Being German, he has shelves and shelves of ring binders full of all our receipts, bills, documents, handbooks and contracts, each binder correctly labelled and internally colour-coded. One section* is for the ‘Deichverband’ – the dyke organisation, which in our case is for Lower Saxony and comprises 22 separate organisations which have the responsibility for keeping our dykes in order. This organisation was founded in 1913; before that, local groups of villagers and farmers did the best they could.

Our house is in the flood plain of the River Weser. The people who built it in 1754 went to the trouble of constructing a “Warft”, a sort of raised platform of earth, and built the house on top, about one metre over the surrounding countryside. Nevertheless, it, and our village, were flooded in the past, as you can see by the header.

Our dykes were constucted in the 1960s

and are under constant renewal.

Where a road runs through there are steel gates waiting to be closed as the water rises.

Since the dykes were built our river still floods, but our village is safe and dry, We take the care of these dykes very seriously:

High water dyke and dyke defence path. These protect life and property. Entry forbidden!

Villages on the other side of the dyke are not so fortunate.

We were all warned at the beginning of the week that regions of Germany would experience extreme amounts of rain, but nobody was prepared for the amount of water, or the effects of this in North Rhine Westphalia or Rhineland Palatinate.

Our lovely daughter-in-law comes from the region called the Eifel, in the Rhineland Palatinate. We spent a lovely holiday there a few years ago: a beautiful area of forests and hills, tiny picturesque villages nestled on the sides of the valleys, most with a small stream running peacefully alongside the main street. That changed within hours this week.

We begin to realise the extent of the damage, the loss of life, and now help is also flooding into the area. Not just from the state, but also volunteer organisations such as the THW (Technisches Hilfswerk):

I saw on our local facebook page that our village volunteer firefighters were planning to leave in the early hours of Saturday for NRW, and on twitter I read that the DIY chain OBI is offering equipment free to anybody in the flooded areas:


And that anybody in Germany can take useful equipment to their local OBI, who will transport it to the devastated area. (OBI will give each donor a voucher for future purchases). Hooray for OBI is all I can say.

Hooray too to facebook, where horse-owners who rescued their horses but now have nowhere to put them, and no fodder, are being teamed with those in other parts of Germany with horse trailers and space in their fields and barns. And hooray to Instagram, where our daughter-in-law auctioned two of her paintings in aid of flood relief. Let’s not forget the DFB (German football organisation) and the Bundeliga who have set up a three million Euro fund for the flood victims.

Lastly (for now) hooray to ESA, “supplying imagery through the Copernicus Emergency Mapping Service to aid relief efforts. The devastating floods has triggered four activations in the Copernicus Emergency Mapping Service, in Western GermanyBelgiumSwitzerland and the Netherlands.”

ESA – Satellites map floods in western Europe

Borders are just lines on maps, after all.

  • *Our annual payment to the Deichverband is €28.87. That seems like money well spent.

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