As It Happens

Woman watched her street become 'wild river' amid floods in Germany

Anja Menzel says scenes in parts of her country right now are "just devastating." More than 125 people have died after catastrophic flooding in parts of Europe.

Over 125 dead, neighbourhoods destroyed after catastrophic flooding in parts of Europe

A woman with an umbrella walks through a flooded street on July 14 in Hagen, Germany, after heavy rain hit parts of the country, causing widespread flooding. A Hagen resident told As It Happens a flooding creek turned her street into a 'wild river.' (Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty Images)

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Anja Menzel says it was "horrifying" to watch her street in the German city of Hagen turn into a river Wednesday morning, as water from a creek overflowed and deposited debris over 48 hours.

But Menzel says her neighbourhood was lucky, because other parts of her country have been affected much more severely. Hagen is in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, one of the states hardest hit by flooding that has ravaged parts of Germany and Belgium.

 At least 125 people have died. Search and rescue efforts are continuing, as hundreds of people are still missing. A defence ministry spokesperson said the German military had deployed more than 850 troops as of Friday morning.

In North Rhine-Westphalia, at least 43 people died.

Menzel said when she went to bed on Tuesday night, she knew there would be heavy rain, but she had no idea it would be as bad as it was. Residents are still cleaning up, she says.

Here is part of her conversation with As It Happens guest host Duncan McCue.

You shared a video on your Twitter of water just rushing through your neighbourhood. Can you describe it for those who haven't seen it?

Yes. This is the street that I live on and basically it's a street that is uphill and yeah, it's just ... the street is nonexistent. It's a wild river, basically. It has turned into a wild river.

What was it like when that water was rushing by?

Horrifying, really. When I woke up on Wednesday the first thing that I saw, when I was looking out the window, was the stream and just the water running through.

Of course, I had to immediately check with friends and neighbours [to see] if they were OK and check into the cellar if it was flooded, which it was not, luckily. And then, of course, go outside and see what it's like and what the damage is that has been done.

The water was running over the street for 48 hours.

Because of events like that, extreme weather conditions like that, public opinion is changing towards yes, this is connected to climate change.- Anja Menzel

Take us back to when that started. I mean, how much rain ended up falling over the couple of days?

 A lot. It has been the most that has been recorded since the beginning of recordings. 

It caused a little creek that usually flows from the woods uphill [then] under the street to overflow — and to overflow the whole neighbourhood basically.

Did you get any kind of warnings that this was coming?

No, we did not.

When I went to bed on the Tuesday night, there was some forecasting about heavy rainfall. But of course, we did not grasp what would come and how the consequences of that heavy rainfall would be.

So what did your street end up looking like after this river poured through it?

After 48 hours, luckily, the overflow stopped and then the whole street was covered in debris, pebbles, the like. 

We had to clean it up and we're still cleaning up. And, yeah, it it looks like a river bed, basically.

But your neighbourhood, I mean, thankfully for you, hasn't seen the worst of the damage in Germany. Can you describe what you've been seeing in other parts of your country?

Yes. So we were really lucky. In our city, in Hagen, where I live, there have been people ... who are much worse off — people who are living in the valley and not hill wards.

The situation in other parts of the country is even worse. So what we see in Rhineland, for example, so many people dead, hundreds missing. It's just devastating. And I can't imagine the amount of damage that has been been done.

Do you think what's happened is going to have an impact on public opinion in Germany on climate change?

Yes, I think so. But I'm unsure about the amount of change that will really come from that.

I think ... because of events like that, extreme weather conditions like that, public opinion is changing towards yes, this is connected to climate change. But in the end, it will be interesting to see if that will also show at the polls or if people are changing their opinion, but not changing their political opinion.

Do you have electricity now? Have you been able to get a decent night's sleep since this flood hit?

Yes, electricity was turned off because of safety reasons for 24 hours, but now it's back and yeah, in the first night sleep was a bit tough. But now that everything is going back to, I don't want to say normal, but since the water's gone away, we're very relieved.


Written by Andrea Bellemare with files from the Associated Press. Interview produced by Katie Geleff.

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