NewsRed Cross takes care of Ahrtal - but the...

Red Cross takes care of Ahrtal – but the helpers are running out

The Red Cross has a unique refreshment base on the edge of the disaster area on the Ahr in Rhineland-Palatinate. But the helpers are slowly becoming scarce.

Grafschaft / Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler – In the middle of the night, the helpers start preparing for lunch in the disaster area on the Ahr. There is chilli.

Between 10,000 and 13,000 portions are prepared and cooked in 15 tent kitchens on a huge parking lot in the Grafschaft municipality in Rhineland-Palatinate. “Four articulated trucks with groceries arrive every day,” says Uwe Mauch, head of operations from the German Red Cross (DRK). “This is the first time that such a catering center has been set up in Germany,” reports the internationally experienced DRK specialist from Mannheim.

Storms with unusually heavy rainfall triggered a flood disaster in western Germany in mid-July with more than 180 deaths. The Ahr valley was hit particularly hard.

Around 110 voluntary DRK helpers from all over Germany have been working on the parking lot of the candy manufacturer Haribo since August 1st, providing food for the people in the region. There are also around 60 helpers in the driving service and ten administrative staff. “It is getting harder from week to week to get enough staff,” says Mauch.

Heavy burden for the helpers

Many volunteers wanted to stay longer and left with tears in their eyes, but were first replaced after a week because of the stress. “We start at 2 a.m. and cook until around 8 a.m.,” says Mauch. After cooking and loading, cleaning is done. “From 2:00 pm, 3:00 pm until 2:00 am, the helpers have time to regenerate.” You spend the night in a youth hostel or a rehabilitation clinic.

Mauch puts the costs for the care center at around 250,000 euros per day. Most of it comes from donations and is for food. However, many employers also calculated the loss of earnings of their employees. “It is the exception that the helpers are given a week or two off.”

A 22-year-old nurse trainee from Düsseldorf, for example, is grateful to her employer for two days off, the others are off anyway. Andreas (35) comes from sports sales and is released from work for operational reasons. Michaela Dürr, school secretary from Lower Franconia, is currently on vacation, but was also released for a few days, as was Peter Matzke, IT administrator from the Rheingau-Taunus district in Hesse.

The food is distributed throughout the valley

Around 370 liters of lunch are cooked in a kitchen per cycle. “And there are three to four passages per kitchen,” says Mauch. A standard serving corresponds to around 350 milliliters. But that’s not enough for hard-working helpers. “Bridge builders, for example, need more, up to 6,000 calories a day.” They can get three-quarters of a liter instead of 350 milliliters – and power bars.

The cooked food is filled into so-called thermophores, loaded and taken with 25 vehicles – sprinters and minibuses – to the 42 distribution points in the disaster area in the Ahr valley. In addition to the “warm meals”, there are mineral water, bread rolls, fruit and various foods as options for breakfast and dinner – also for around 13,000 people each. “People should take what they want, otherwise too much will fly away,” says Mauch. Another department of the DRK brought drinking water in large quantities.

The distances to be mastered are long. They extend to the east for 20 kilometers and in the west for 65 kilometers as the crow flies, as Mauch says. “65 kilometers as the crow flies are 143 kilometers away.”

Sliced turkey with noodles and salad was on the menu for lunch the day before. The next day, thanks to a large donation from Nuremberg sausages, there will be a currywurst pan – and potato goulash for the vegetarians. “We work according to international guidelines,” explains Mauch. Therefore, there is always a vegetarian option.

There are also helpers from abroad

Shortly before noon, two pensioners and a woman with her little daughter are waiting at the food counter at the train station in the Ahrweiler district. The two men, who still lack water and electricity, have been there several times. “A small warm meal at noon is important,” says Fritz Hardes. “I am very grateful for what you get. Nobody has to go hungry, ”says Rudolf Siegmund (80), who joins them. At the issuing point on the market square, residents criticize the issuing times, which are limited to 2.5 hours. But this is stipulated in European food law, says Mauch.

Within a very short time a long queue forms – including many helpers from home and abroad, many hardly speak German. Paul Janssen from near Vienna is also lining up with a friend. The two Austrians came for a two-day relief mission – instead of vacation. “That brings more than sitting around at home and just talking about how bad this is,” says the 25-year-old. “That is also an experience.”

The DRK base is called “Care Center Ten Thousand”. It was originally designed for so many meals. “The demand is now falling slightly,” says Mauch. Many now have at least emergency power again, and the water supply should work again by mid-October. “But that will take a while on the upper reaches of the Ahr.” The DRK is examining who can replace it in the future. “Many caterers want to earn money, but they don’t know what it means,” reports Mauch. Perhaps, however, staff from the catering industry could be employed who had become unemployed during the flood. dpa

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