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6 min

In service for people in need

Flood disaster after the "Bernd" depression: employees of our company group volunteer with the fire brigade and THW to help those affected.

It was one of the worst natural disasters ever to hit Germany: Extremely heavy rainfall had triggered a flood wave in mid-July on the river Ahr in the north of Rhineland-Palatinate. Entire areas were devastated, roads and railways washed out, houses collapsed.

Das THW hilft bei den Aufräumarbeiten nach der Flut
© THW Miltenberg

In the floods and under the debris, more than 140 people lost their lives in this federal state. In North Rhine-Westphalia there were another 47 deaths as a result of the storm. Tens of thousands were affected by the material consequences, losing their belongings or even their homes. Shortly afterwards, an unprecedented supporting campaign was launched. In addition to food, clothing and emergency shelter, helpers with heavy equipment were needed above all. The THW (technical aid organization) immediately organised the deployment of volunteer rescuers, vehicles and material.

 

Miltenberg supports Bad Münstereifel
After a short preparation, the THW set off for Bad Münstereifel in North Rhine-Westphalia  with two groups  of specialists for emergency supply/repair and clearing. "Our tasks included securing buildings, pumping water out of cellars, clearing and securing river and stream courses of the Erft in the Bad Münstereifel area, and helping the local population," reports Michael Zipf. The software engineer at BRAND was responsible for a total of 21 emergency forces from Miltenberg and another nine from Würzburg. Zipf and his colleagues were confronted with a disastrous picture. Many shops in the old town, schools and other public facilities were badly damaged or even destroyed, and many people's homes were uninhabitable.

 

"You only understand the true extent of the disaster when you inside in the area and you can see all the destruction around you have to walk over the rubble," says Zipf. He recounts an experience in an emergency shelter: a child had asked his mother when they would be able to go home to take a shower. The mother had to answer that home no longer existed. The team from Lower Franconia immediately set to work, helping to pump water out of a grammar school, stabilising a washed-out building and securing culturally valuable stone reliefs from the historic old town of Bad Münstereifel. The Erft bed was cleared of floating debris, rubble, destroyed vehicles and parts of buildingswith the help of heavy clearing equipment. In addition to his team, Zipf coordinated other forces from Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia, who were on site with tracked excavators, wheel loaders and truck dumpers, among others. All in all, the team was on the job for almost a week and received a lot of appreciation for their commitment. "The population was very grateful for the help," says the BRAND employee.

BRAND Mitarbeiter helfen nach der Flutkatastrophe
© THW Miltenberg

Baden-Württemberg helps Rhineland-Palatinate

The two VACUUBRAND employees Maximilian Gerberich (production) and Marius Leonhardt (production) supported the THW Wertheim in Rhineland-Palatinate, which was even more severely affected. Right after the evacuation of the flooded area, twelve helpers started with a bus, two trucks and boats. "At first we helped to set up the base camp at the Nürburgring," says Maximilian Gerberich. The Bundeswehr helicopter was loaded, brought food, drinks and other donations to the cut-off areas. The helpers from Wertheim installed emergency lighting in several villages at the Ahr valley where electricity boxes had been washed away, loaded relief vehicles with service water and helped pump water out of cellars and salvaged objects from houses.


Four days after the devastating rainfall, the Regional Council of Stuttgart had sent out the flood disaster control platoon of the Main-Tauber district. The team consisted of 13 firefighters from Wertheim, including two BRAND employees, as well as eight other people from the Main-Tauber district. "We were particularly deployed in the municipality of Altenahr and the district of Altenburg," reports Simon Rüttiger (injection moulding). War-like conditions prevailed: "A valley full of devastation as far as the eye can see. A flood wave up to seven metres high had made its way through a narrow valley with some steep slopes. In some localities, almost all houses were under water up to the top of the 1st floor." Most of the affected residents lost all their belongings.

 

Rüttiger is in charge of the radio department at the Wertheim fire brigade and was entrusted with setting up a communication network with his team in the Ahr valley, among other things: "The residents of the affected villages were to be given an additional possibility to contact their relatives or the authorities in order to get a better overview of the number of people still missing." In addition, the Main-Tauber disaster relief workers supported the local forces in cleaning up the homes, some of which were full of dirt and mud up to the roof. Not only for those affected in the disaster regions, but also for the helpers, the mission was an existential experience. Rüttigers colleague Markus Kurz (ENT/LH) sums it up with a quote from another helper,  "Donating a pot to a local resident is useless because he no longer has a cooker to use it."

 

Commitment demanded

Experiencing a sense of community and helping others: local associations of the THW and volunteer fire brigades are happy to have active comrades-in-arms. There are also numerous opportunities for children and young people, including exciting leisure activities such as tent camps. The employer backs them up: "The BRAND Group supports such voluntary work by employees," says Kars Herrmann, Director HR & Legal at BRAND INTERNATIONAL.

Matthias Stein

Marketing Director

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