This year, the public holiday weekend known in Germany as “Pfingsten” was the hottest on record. After a weekend of extreme heat, ranging in some areas to over 35 degrees Celcius, violent storms hit the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The Düsseldorf region was worst hit by the extreme thunderstorms, which caused severe damage and killed 6 people. Hurricane Ela struck at 9pm on the Monday 9 June. As winds of up to 150 km/h pounded Düsseldorf and its surroundings, the storm left severe damage in its wake.
With the airport closed, railway services paused and public transport bought to a standstill, Dusseldorf was facing an emergency situation. Powerlines and trees were blocking roads everywhere and first response personnel were being called in to assist. Some of the fallen trees measured in excess of 1 meter in diameter which made it impossible for the fire brigade to clear them from the streets. Falling trees also damaged numerous vehicles. One destroyed a shed, tragically killing 3 people who were using it to shelter, and two cyclists also lost their lives in the same manner.
A total of over 17000 trees fell. Approximately 260 troops have been drafted in since Saturday 14 June to help with the clearing of the storm damage. During the lengthy mop up operation, RRT teams of approximately 5 people served soldiers and emergency service workers with refreshments. While the clean-up crews worked tirelessly for 4 days following the storm, to clear the roads of trees, the RRT was alongside with coffee and refreshments.
The refreshments were well received by the crews, exhausted by the strenuous and dangerous work. They appreciated the good quality coffee, which boosted their energy and morale, and were encouraged by the unselfish and happy attitude of the RRT volunteers. Many requested a copy of the “Living our Beliefs” booklet.
On Sunday the 15th, the RRT operated within the army barracks, and for the following days they visited the sites where the army were working. Police opened every roadblock for the RRT teams, which shows the importance of their assistance. One high ranking army official was heard to say that he had never seen anything like it. We look forward to helping out on operations like this in the future.