By Richard Davies, floodlist
Prolonged heavy rainfall across parts of Germany in late December 2023 caused rivers to rise in several states, in particular Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and North Rhine-Westphalia. Rivers remained high in many areas into early January 2024.
Thousands of emergency personnel made up of police, firefighters, civil protection, military and volunteers, were deployed to pump floodwater and erect temporary flood barriers. Lower Saxony requested help from the German armed forces and 6 military helicopters were put on standby.
Evacuation orders were issued for residents in the town of Windehausen in Thuringia, and in Lilienthal, Lower Saxony. The overflowing Meiße river prompted the evacuation of the Serengeti Park zoo in Hodenhagen, also in Lower Saxony.
On 31 December Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited the town of Verden in Lower Saxony, to see the damage caused by the flooding Aller river. The Aller River at Eitze near Verden measured 6.59 metres on 29 December, above the highest warning level (4 of 4) of 6.51 metres.
The swollen Weser River caused flooding in the small town of Rinteln, where some residents were evacuated on 27 December. Areas of Nienburg district were also flooded from the overflowing Weser river. At Drakenburg in Nienburg district the Weser reached a record level of 8.43 metres on 28 December, above the previous high of 8.34 metres set in 1981.
In North Rhine-Westphalia, the village of Schenkenschanz in the district of Kleve was completely surrounded by flood water. Teams from the Technisches Hilfswerk (THW), the federal civil protection organisation of Germany, set up a ferry service for the village’s 100 residents.
Communities in the Mansfeld-Südharz District in Saxony-Anhalt were told to prepare to evacuate due to rising levels of the Helme River. Bridges and railway lines were closed. The district declared a state of disaster on 30 December 2023 and later requested help from the German armed forces. Chancellor Scholz visited affected areas of Mansfeld-Südharz district on 04 January 2024.
The Helme River at Bennungen in Mansfeld-Südharz District exceeded the 2 metres highest warning level (4 of 4) on 25 December and remained above level 4 warning well into January 2024.
Copernicus EMS Rapid Mapping was activated to provide maps of flooded areas and damages. EMS analysed areas along the Hase, Hunte, Weser, Leine-Rhume, Innerste, Fuhse and Oker-Schunter rivers. As of 09 January 2024, EMS reported almost 35,000 hectares flooded, with 459.9 hectares flooded in built-up areas. A total of 17,720 people were potentially affected and 468.8 km of roads damaged.
Germany requested assistance via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism that quickly mobilised emergency support. France also requested assistance at the same time following further flooding in the Pas-de-Calais department.
"As the new year starts, EU solidarity does not waver. Once again, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism's swift and decisive assistance to the flood-stricken regions of Germany and France stands as a testament to the strength of unity. I thank Austria, Czechia, France, Hungary, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Slovakia and Sweden for quickly showing their support.” said Commissioner for Crises Management Janez Lenarcic.