Aarti documentary film about the flood in Wadi Ahar: people fear for their lives on graves crosses

Friedhelm Jacobs, a firefighter. When masses of water rolled through the Ahr Valley on July 14-15, it was washed away from the fire station. Floodwaters carry him away so he can stick to a tree in the cemetery. “You think that can’t be the case. You don’t want to die in the cemetery.”

When he weakens, he has to let go of the branches, but ends up standing on a graveyard cross. He stood on the stone cross for seven hours before Bonn firefighters rescued him from the tragic emergency the next morning in a private car. “It was redemption and relief,” Jacobs explains.

Aarti’s documentary “The Night When the Flood Came” presents oppressive scenes

The documentary “The Night When the Flood” follows the people of the era and shows in previously unreleased footage how they suffered from the disaster. Above all, there are unreal videos of basements flooding, cars drifting and massive torrents of water.

But there are also the oppressive cries of desperate people who have death before their eyes. “Dear God in Heaven!” “This is the end. The whole house is destroyed!” “Everything flies through the booth!” One year after the Ahr flood in 2021, the film reconstructs the events while at the same time looking at the causes of the world’s weather institutes.

The European Early Warning System alerted German authorities – they miscalculate the risks

Hydrologist Hannah Kluck works for the European Early Warning System (EFAS). She saw disaster coming on her screens in England. The researcher monitors weather developments around the world. Freezing cold as in Texas or heat waves as in the northwestern United States and Canada. The German authorities had warned of floods in the Ahr Valley.

Where did this alarming information go, no one knows. In any case, the on-site crisis team miscalculates the risks and does not initially announce a disaster. It is said that the state of the data is not enough. “It was hard for me to see that we had the technology and yet we couldn’t save lives,” explains Hannah Kluck.

A firefighter tries to help in a flooded and drowned camp

On that day, 200 people died in floods in Germany and Belgium. Katharina Maria Kratz was also affected in the Ahr Valley. The 19-year-old was working on a volunteer fire brigade in Adenau and at a flooded camping site. Katrina wants to help an injured woman there. Suddenly a flood surrounded them. They both drown. Her mother says, “I have a picture of her hugging this woman comforting each other.”

Others are lucky. Oliver Grace was uprooted from his home by water. A concrete column was smashed into the gable wall. The roof collapsed and the wall of the house followed. “I thought that was it.” It can cling to a lemon tree for 15 hours. In the morning, the helicopter saves the exhausted man both physically and mentally. Grieß is only wearing a bathrobe, and he tells the rescuers, suspended in the air, to fly in such a way that you cannot look under your bathrobe.

The dense development of the Ahar Valley also clogs up the water bodies

In the film, Newcastle researcher Harley Fowler explains that such environmental tragedies are clearly linked to man-made climate change. Events such as the one in the Ahar Valley may be nine times more likely with human intervention.

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There are many reasons for this: due to global warming, there is more water in the air in general. “And so the rain is concentrated in certain places at certain times,” Fowler says. This is also due to the fact that the jet stream, which flows from west to east, weakens as the poles melt. At the same time, sea level is rising. In addition, according to a research team in Bonn, the Ahr Valley is highly built and the water masses have also been dammed.

Twelve residents of a facility for the disabled drowned in the flood

As a viewer, the documentary is hard to resist. In addition to the wonderful pictures, the film talks about tragedies within tragedies. “I get angry,” says Ulrich Martin. On the night the flood came, he heard cries for help from the neighboring house of Lebenshilfe. There were 21 disabled people living there that evening. “There was someone hanging on the other side of the house screaming that he didn’t want to die, that he couldn’t swim.” 12 people with disabilities drowned in the floods because they could not reach the upper floor. From home alone. Not only will early evacuation save their lives.