How do people move on after everything has been taken away from them? Who helps? And: Where does the strength come from to find your way back to everyday life after one of the worst German storm disasters in recent years?

ZDF tried to answer all these questions on Thursday evening within a one-hour report – and came to a surprisingly optimistic result. “Despite all the suffering, the anger, the sadness, many people here see the bitter catastrophe as an opportunity. As an incentive not only to rebuild this region with your ideas, but to bring it forward,” was Sarah Tacke’s conclusion at the end of the film “The Flood – Between Anger and Courage”, for which the ZDF reporter and her colleague Dunja Hayali traveled across the areas affected by the severe weather in July 2021.

In order to get as many different perspectives as possible, the journalists traveled on two separate routes: Dunja Hayali traveled to Erftstadt, Bad Münstereifel, Altena, Stolberg and Mechernich (all in North Rhine-Westphalia). Sarah Tacke went to the Ahr Valley (Rhineland-Palatinate) – from Schuld to Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, from Marienthal to Ahrbrück.

One thing became clear: Even a year after the catastrophe, the sight of flash floods, cars drifting away and destroyed buildings is still stunning. Not least thanks to the extensive archive material in the form of mobile phone videos, the contribution by the filmmakers Gert Anhalt, Christoph Warneck and Christine Gloos once again showed what apocalyptic conditions prevailed around twelve months ago in numerous cities and communities in western Germany. But to find out what the flood did to rescuers and the rescued, Hayali and Tacke had to look to the present.

In the old mining town of Mechernich, for example, which is located on the edge of the Eifel – “far from navigable waters” – the volunteer fire brigade recently acquired a rescue fleet. The flood has taught the residents that even small streams pose a risk.

Back then, a year ago, the fire brigade had to pull people out of the water with a small party boat for lack of alternatives. 19 people could be saved in this way; Professional equipment and targeted training courses should now ensure that many more people can be saved from drowning if the worst comes to the worst. The number of members has also increased – but all by itself, as fire chief Jens Schreiber reported: “We have counted 45 new members since the flood.” Clearly: the people want to help!

Nick Falkner, who has been working voluntarily at the donation distribution center in Grafschaft since last year, also confirmed this impression. More than 100 helpers are regularly involved there and have made it their task to organize and pass on clothing, food, toys and also household appliances. “Without volunteers, there would have been nothing in the Ahr valley apart from the most necessary survival aid,” Falkner stated in an interview with Dunja Hayali.

A visit by Dunja Hayali to Stolberg showed that those who were already living on the poverty line before the floods were particularly hard hit. Many people have already been financially affected by the Corona crisis, said Cill Ulfig. The young woman who helps out in a supply container was certain: “People need more support than ever before”, even today. After all, there are warm meals in the container – those affected often no longer have a functioning kitchen.

In the midst of all the suffering, the grief and also the anger that many of the flood victims expressed in the film, after the 60-minute TV trip one thing above all remained in the memory: the almost endless willingness to help of numerous people, which is still driving the reconstruction to this day .

The original of this post “”Catastrophe as an opportunity”: ZDF documentary shows almost endless willingness to help in the flood area” comes from Teleschau.