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Floods in Germany and Belgium: A tragedy to avoid in the future

Cars swept away by the force of the water, boarded up houses and debris blocking access roads in Germany and Belgium are some of the terrifying images we have seen in the media and social networks during the last few days. Terrifying not only because they mean deaths, injuries and victims, but also because we are aware that this scenario will continue to repeat itself if we do not act quickly in favor of the environment.

The rains began more than a week ago. The inhabitants of the most affected regions had never imagined, let alone witnessed, what happened. Heavy and excessive precipitations that take a long time to stop are the most outstanding characteristics of the phenomenon that causes rivers to overflow.

"Everything was very fast, the water rose to 1.60 meters. There were dead bodies in the street.", were the shocking statements of an inhabitant of Bad Honnef in North Rhine-Westphalia. "Nobody expected this, where did all this rain come from? It's crazy," said Annemarie Mueller, a resident of Mayen in the same region of Germany. The total toll of this tragedy in western Germany and southern Belgium so far has been (approximate figures):

  • More than 200 dead

  • More than 700 people injured

  • Thousands of people missing and affected

  • Thousands of people evacuated and many still at risk.

These are numbers that demand a state of alert, both on the part of the authorities and on the part of the population itself. This includes those who are directly or indirectly affected, and those who do not feel threatened at all, at least for now.

What do the authorities have to say about this?

Some Heads of State have spoken out, obviously, some because they are directly affected, others out of solidarity, but also because, let's be honest, they know that this is something that could happen in their countries in the not too distant future. We have been warned and for a long time!

"Catastrophic", "Phantasmagoric" and "Surreal" were the adjectives used by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to describe one of the most shocking natural tragedies of recent years.

Catastrophic and phantasmagoric, I accept, but surrealistic I don't. How can something that was clearly predicted by what we consider more rational and realistic: science, be surrealistic? So dismay is admissible, but surprise is not, at least not by those who are supposed to be at the helm of nations.

There have also been calls to conscience from the Chancellor of Germany regarding the climate phenomenon. Likewise, the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, who expressed his concern about the environmental issue: "Terrible. We are still shocked by the images of the floods in Germany and Belgium. Families devastated by the loss of loved ones, destruction of homes and livelihoods. One more sign that action is urgently needed to curb climate change and prevent further tragedies".

However, the planet needs much more than words of indignation and calls for reflection. It needs definitive, forceful and effective action on this issue. After all, only our actions as humanity can save us from a future similar or similar to the current natural catastrophes.

What do scientists and experts say?

A team of researchers from Newcastle University's School of Engineering, led by Dr. Abdullah Kahraman, conducted state-of-the-art climate simulations. This was in order to test the slow movement of storms to increase the amount of rainfall in the locality, which in turn increases the risk of flooding. These have been more severe than determined in previous studies.

The conclusion of this research was that climate change is currently causing a considerable increase in intense, slow-moving storms in Europe.

It is understandable that in countries such as Germany the situation is occurring at this time, as the rainy season is between May and September. Of course, it is also an indicator that weather events like these will continue to occur for the remainder of 2021. For the most part, they develop in an extreme form in middle and high mountain regions. In this sense, the alert is heightened.

Experts in climatology and meteorology have shown on several occasions that these phenomena will occur again and again in the coming decades. In some parts of the world it will be the rains, in others extreme droughts that make life impossible.

Monetary and material aid

The most immediate, of course, is to help with money to repair the material damage. However, we know that lives will not be recovered and perhaps the psychological impacts of the victims will be difficult to overcome. While this is certainly much needed help, we are aware that the pattern of behavior, where we are only concerned with damage control, has brought us to this situation.

A plan of action and economic investment that contributes to the reduction of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere is imperative. There is not much more to reflect on, nor to question about this specific cause. The current initiatives, unfortunately, are insufficient, we will always need the instances of power, of big capital, to change the course that leads us directly to the end of life on the planet as we know it today.

In a previous article, which you can read here, I have already explained that the problem is rooted in the lifestyle and economies of the great powers and most industrialized countries. They are the ones that produce the most emissions, despite the fact that there are more populated areas in the world. Consequently, we need the prevailing consumption patterns to lose strength and the international political powers to take immediate action to reverse the problem they have caused.

Could this unfortunate catastrophe caused by the rains in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands generate some kind of forcefulness in this sense? I want to believe it will. What those of us in this struggle want most of all is to prevent this from happening again in the future.

Join the fight!

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