DThe Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of the Interior published videos of the disaster in the Ahr Valley on Tuesday evening, which were recorded from a police helicopter on the evening of the flood. The videos show that the extent of the disaster was clearly visible. Large areas of flooded towns can be seen, as well as light signals made by people from the roofs or windows of flooded houses; the houses are often flooded up to the gutter; you can also see a car with the interior light switched on and driving by. The videos were pixelated where people were evidently visible. There are usually pixelated spots on roof windows or dormer windows in houses that are submerged in water up to the gutter.
The videos were taken by a police helicopter on the evening of July 14, 2021 between 10:14 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. during a flight upstream. According to the police, the villages of Mayschoß and Guilt can be seen. In the flood disaster in the Ahr Valley, 134 people died and more than 700 were injured. Despite forecasts available from the afternoon that a level above that of the “water of the century” from 2016 was expected, people had not been warned. Even after midnight and therefore after the videos were recorded, people drowned at the mouth of the Ahr in the Rhine near Sinzig because they had not been warned.
In particular, the Rhineland-Palatinate Interior Minister Roger Lewentz (SPD) has been criticized for the lack of warnings. Lewentz was on site in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler on the evening of the flood, but recently stated during his most recent interrogation as a witness in the investigative committee of the Rhineland-Palatinate state parliament that there was “no mention at all of “flood or even flash flood”. Lewentz also said that during the flood in the Ahr Valley he had “no complete picture of the situation”. One of the employees in the police situation center of the Interior Ministry on the night of the flood stated that a “very classic flood” had been assumed. The dimension was “unpredictable”. At the latest, however, the flood videos should have made it clear to those involved how devastating the situation on the Ahr really was.This should have resulted in the convening of a state government crisis team and widespread warnings.
Lewentz stated that he did not see the videos at the time
The recordings that have now been published were suggested by the police situation center in the Ministry of the Interior on the evening of the disaster, but they don’t seem to have gotten there. Lewentz recently stated that he did not see the videos at the time. It is also questionable why the investigative committee only got to see the videos now. They were recently shown behind closed doors in the investigative committee; the Ministry of the Interior had previously classified them as confidential, since it was possible to draw conclusions about the persons concerned.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of the Interior recently said that after the end of the mission and the change of flight crew in the morning, the video files were saved by the police on a data carrier because the files were too large for electronic transmission. Police recently apologized for the delay in releasing the videos. Christoph Semmelrogge, President of the Police Headquarters for Operations, Logistics and Technology, and Karlheinz Maron, President of the Koblenz Police Headquarters, said: “It must be admitted that the police would have had to submit a report to the investigative committee regarding the videos even before the evidence decision of August 29, 2022. “
The opposition CDU again called for the resignation of Interior Minister Lewentz on Tuesday evening. The CDU parliamentary group leader Christian Baldauf said: “Lewentz knew the content of the videos, knew about people in mortal danger and ‘sad scenes’. But the interior minister ignored all indications of the impending catastrophe early in the evening and during the night.” Lewentz’s resignation was inevitable, said Baldauf.