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After Deadly Floods, a German Village Rethinks Its Relationship to Nature

After Deadly Floods, a German Village Rethinks Its Relationship to Nature
A long history of bad land use decisions exacerbated the death toll and damage of Germany’s recent megaflood. Some say now is the time to rebuild differently.

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After Deadly Floods, a German Village Rethinks Its Relationship to Nature

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Mr. Gieler, the mayor of a small village in the Ahr Valley, a lush winemaking region in western Germany that became the epicenter of devastating floods last month, was only five minutes down the road from his mother but he could not help her. He was trapped on the top floor of his own house with his wife and children after the gentle brook he had played in as a boy had turned into a 33-foot raging river that roared past his second-floor windows on both sides carrying roof tops and whole camper vans.

The river swallowed not just Mr. Gieler’s entire childhood home that July night but the ground it once stood on. His mother’s body was found five miles downriver 10 days later.

“I have never felt so small and powerless,” he said one recent afternoon gazing at the now empty space on the opposite bank of the river.

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