It’s difficult to imagine the scale of the tragedy caused by torrential rains and flooding in Germany, Belgium, and elsewhere. But drones can help give us — and, more importantly, First Responders — a bigger picture. And one drone video shows a massive sinkhole in Germany.
One of the latest reports from BBC World News says more than 150 people have been killed, and hundreds are still missing. When we first reported on this disaster, the number of fatalities was reported at more than 70.
Sadly, that number has more than doubled, and it’s quite possible it will double (or more) again.
When disasters like this happen, they hit the headlines for a few days, and then people not directly impacted tend to forget about it. News organizations (and we’ve worked for them) move on to the next headline. But this tragedy will be felt for months, if not longer. People have had their lives completely upended. Many have lost their homes, businesses, and even loved ones. Imagine that for a moment: Your house and all its contents have been lost, along with a family member. It’s tragic.
Now, we’re learning a huge sinkhole has formed in Blessem, near Cologne, and it is said to be getting “bigger and bigger.”
According to reports, the River Erft began to overflow on Thursday. By Friday, the river burst its banks, and a gravel quarry south of the town – measuring 99 acres wide and 60 meters deep – began to fill rapidly with floodwaters. It gave way soon, not being able to withstand the water pressure. And as it collapsed, several houses, cars, and a part of a castle in Blessem were swallowed into the ground.
The search is still on for the 15 people who were believed to be inside the houses when the sudden erosion happened. Frank Rock, head of the county administration, told German broadcaster n-tv:
One has to assume that under the circumstances some people didn’t manage to escape.
Drone video of sinkhole in Germany
The video you’ll see in a second gives you a sense of both the power of the floods and the scale of the destruction. The road ends abruptly, exposing previously underground sewer lines. Piles of debris are pushed up against homes. While some are spared, neighboring buildings have been destroyed completely and swept away.
As you can see, the force of water (and mud) is capable of obliterating pretty much anything in its path.
British newspaper The Guardian reports that storms and floods are not new to the area, which is dotted with opencast mines of brown coal, gravel, and sand. When the owners of the Blessem gravel quarry applied for an expansion in 2015, local authorities granted their request on the condition they would build a 0.74 mile (1.2 km) protective wall to prevent the pit from filling with water in the event of a flood.
And they did build the wall, but it proved ineffective as the water overflowed higher up the river, gushing through the streets of the town before collecting at the lowest point.
Another drone video, posted by BBC, shows the aftermath of huge mudslides triggered by the floods:
Climate change likely factor
Climate scientists continue to warn that extreme weather events like these will come with unpredictable consequences. When Germany’s Environment Minister Svenja Schulze was shown video footage of the horrifying destruction on Friday, she stated: “Climate change has arrived in Germany.”
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to visit the area on Sunday.
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