Floods generate 4 decades’ worth of junk in German valley

BERLIN (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of tons of junk have been removed from a valley in western Germany since it was devastated by flooding in mid-July, equivalent to four decades’ worth of garbage, authorities said Friday.

More than 180 people died in Germany and hundreds more were injured in the July 14-15 floods, which also claimed lives in neighboring Belgium. Heavy rainfall turned small streams into raging torrents, sweeping away houses, bridges and cars. The narrow Ahr valley suffered the most destruction.

The local administration in Ahrweiler, near Bonn, said that more than 300,000 metric tons (330,000 tons) of bulky waste have been recovered from the area since the floods. It said that is the same as 40 years’ worth of junk under normal circumstances.

“The true scale of the tragedy only becomes clear when you think that the many people who were affected were forced to throw out not garbage but their entire possessions,” local councillor Horst Gies said in a statement. Things such as photo albums or paintings of children can’t be replaced, he added.

The German government quickly put in place a roughly 400 million-euro ($474 million) package of immediate aid for flood victims. In August, it agreed to provide 30 billion euros ($36 billion) in longer-term aid to help rebuild the affected regions.

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