?We took ketchup.? This is the only food Karl Bretzendorfer remembers taking up to the attic where he spent 13 days trapped with his wife Irina, as the waters rose around them in what Chancellor Angela Merkel called ?the flood of the century? in the state of Bavaria, south-east Germany. Karl, 73, and his wife refused to be evacuated from their home because they were told they would not be able to take their four cats with them. They had lived through plenty of floods and thought this one would be no different. But when the water reached their knees, they panicked. This is when they fled to the attic. ?Luckily, we did have drinking water stored upstairs,? he adds. They also took sausages and bread, and toilet paper. They spent almost two weeks there without power, playing cards and listening to the radio. Today, Karl laughs as he tells the story, but the couple?s house, in which they invested every cent they had, was left in ruins, the ground floor completely submerged. They were only able to rebuild thanks to financial support from the regional government of Bavaria, Germany?s second-richest state by GDP. But those funds won?t be available if the river overflows again. The flood of the century In June 2013, after four days of heavy rainfall , the Elbe and the Danube overflowed. The previous month had been the second wettest May on record in Germany. Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Croatia and Serbia were hit by extreme flooding and thousands of people across central Europe were evacuated. Half of Germany?s 16 states were badly hit ? 21 people were killed and losses amounted to ?11.6 billion. In Bavaria, the country?s largest state, flooding caused ?1.3 billion of damage. A history of flooding ?The region north of the Alps is highly susceptible to floods, because air masses get stuck there,? explains Günter Blöschl, professor of Hydrology and Water Resources at the Technical University in Vienna. Some cities in Bavaria are ?historically built in a way that makes it very hard now to take precautions against floods,? he adds. This is the case with Passau, proudly known as the city of the three rivers ? the Danube, the Inn and the Ilz converge on its territory ? but less honoured to be a drainage destination for most of southern Germany. ?It was clear from the beginning, not all parts of town can be protected from flooding,? said Jürgen Dupper, the city?s mayor. Karl lived through his first flood as a child in 1954. Over the years, the waters rose again and again. His village, Fischerdorf, is a district of Deggendorf, built on a plain where the Danube and Isaar rivers meet. ?The name Fischerdorf literally means ?village of the fishermen?,? says Georg Kestel, head of the environmental NGO BUND Naturschutz. ?People from here used to know where to build, and if they built in a wet area it took them one flood to learn and rebuild somewhere else.? So Karl wasn?t worried when, in 2013, he heard the Isaar was flooding again. The water had never before risen above knee-level and the damage had always been limited. But this time, water started to flood from the street gullies. Fischerdorf?s dam burst and the water level eventually rose to 8 metres, submerging the entire village. From the window of their attic, Karl and his wife watched the waters rise around their home. Damages and insurances ?The effects of the flood in 2013 were dramatic,? says Mayor Dupper. ?We had a power outage and a shortage of potable water, which brought catastrophe management to its limits.? He estimates the damage done amounted to ?250 million in Passau alone. In Fischerdorf, some 600 houses had to be rebuilt and more than 200 were demolished. The damage was not caused by water alone ? the flood water became contaminated by heating oil leaking from damaged tanks. Iris Hirshauer recalls: ?We would wake up in the night asking ourselves, where will we go if there?s oil in the house?? When the floods came in 2013, she was living with her family in Niederalteich, a village on the Danube 11 kilometres south of Fischerdorf. They thought they would be displaced for one night and it ended up being two months, during which the question of whether they would survive the flood financially kept them awake, night after night. The family did not have home insurance. They were not alone ? in Bavaria, just 21 per cent of people had their houses insured in 2013 . Home insurance is not compulsory when buying or renting a house in Germany. Iris says insurance fees were simply unaffordable in her area, as flooding was too frequent there. However the Bavarian government came to their aid, funding 80 per cent of rebuilding for uninsured homeowners. Ironically, for those with insurance, the wait was longer and hampered by bureaucracy. Ewald Bayer, who travelled to Fischerdorf to volunteer after the


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