Flood disaster: “There you will only find a landscape of rubble”

The floods of the last few days have left a swath of devastation in parts of Germany. The North Rhine-Westphalian city of Hagen was among the cities particularly affected. As in many other places, a number of car dealerships there fell victim to the masses of water. AUTOHAUS asked the head foreman of the Hagen / Ennepe-Ruhr motor vehicle guild and ZDK board member Detlef Peter Grün how things are going next and what is now helping the companies.

AH: Mr. Grün, how did you experience the flood disaster in Hagen?

Detlef Peter Grün: Fortunately, nothing happened in my own company. Our house, on the other hand, got hit: I live right next to a small stream that quickly became a raging river. When it overflowed, it flooded our house and especially the cellar. Compared to others, however, I got off lightly. Many of my colleagues from Hagen, whose businesses are located directly on the two rivers Lenne and Volme, have unfortunately been hard hit. You have to know: The Volme flows through the inner city of Hagen and the outskirts. And there in the outskirts, directly on the Volme, many industrial companies and car companies have settled. When the Volme overflowed its banks, the water immediately ran into the factories. It all happened so quickly and with such force that extremely large amounts of rubble were swept away. And these debris are now lying around everywhere in Hagen. In places the streets have simply become 1.50 meters higher. There are cars on the road up to the roof in the rubble. To move forward, you have to walk over these scree. We have never seen anything like this here. I have been living in Ennepetal for 54 years now and I cannot remember that there has ever been such severe flooding.

AH: How high is the damage in the companies?

D. P. Grün: Unfortunately, I do not yet know the exact situation in detail. But I know that three to five companies are completely gone. They are just not there anymore. They swam away with the property, cars and workshop. There you will only find a landscape of ruins in which no stone stands on top of the other. It looks like a bomb has exploded there. I could never imagine the power of water. It is unimaginable. But of course there are also lighter cases where only the cellar is full.

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AH: What’s next?

Green: We have teamed up in the guild and are in the process of setting up a meeting point where the affected colleagues can bring their defective vehicles from the exhibition areas. Because if you, as a dealer, have 50 damaged cars in the yard, it takes quite a while until the insurance expert is finally there and the vehicles are all appraised. In that time, it’s hard to start cleaning up. That is a big problem. At the central assembly point, on the other hand, the insurers can inspect the cars in peace and the companies can start cleaning up at the same time. Peter Börne, the President of the ZKF (Central Association of Body and Vehicle Technology, Anm. d. Red.) helped a lot. At our request, he used his good relationship with the insurers and campaigned for them to participate in our plan for the assembly point.

AH: How many vehicles are you talking about?

D. P. Grün: I guess that’s up to 1,000 cars.

Due to the storm on July 14th, large parts of Hagen were under water. Hundreds of cars were total losses.

© Foto: picture alliance / Kirchner-Media | Christopher Neundorf

AH: All in one place?

D. P. Grün: Not quite. A maximum of 300 vehicles fit on the place we have chosen. The city of Hagen has therefore ensured that we will be provided with additional places if necessary. That was very accommodating. I have to honestly say: I haven’t seen such helpfulness and collegiality in a long time. Be it authorities or colleagues: Everyone stands together.

AH: What other urgent construction sites are there?

D. P. Grün: I’ll start at the very beginning: At first, many parts of the city were without electricity and water. Recovering that quickly was essential for survival. And the city of Hagen achieved that very quickly. That is why I have to express my praise again here. Now it’s a matter of getting rid of all the rubbish. The waste disposal companies in Hagen cleared away 20,000 tons of garbage within a week. For comparison: The annual volume of residual waste amounts to 8,000 to 10,000 tons … The individual companies now have to clean their operations and record the damage. When that is done, I hope for quick help from insurers and politicians. But I see ourselves on the right path: Only this morning I received an email from the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of Finance in which it basically says: Costs that arise for clean-up or construction work should be tax-favored. I have to say: Hats off – you don’t really know anything like that in politics. Obviously the right people are in the right places. And funds have now also been promised when it comes to aid. All I can say about this is that we have spent a lot of money in Germany in recent years on things that make us look good in terms of social policy. I hope that the state does not forget us as entrepreneurs and that it realizes that we are the taxpayers of tomorrow.

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ZDK board member Detlef Peter Grün is head master of the Hagen / Ennepe-Ruhr motor vehicle guild. In an interview with AUTOHAUS, he described what help the companies concerned now need.

© Photo: Screenshot Armin Wutzer / AUTOHAUS

AH: What do you want from the insurers?

D. P. Grün: I hope that the insurers will come quickly, assess them quickly and then give them a quick release so that the companies can get the damage reimbursed quickly and work again. That is not a matter of course, but it is important. After all, we are not only talking about damage amounting to a few thousand euros, but also, in some cases, the total loss of a business. If you now consider the values ​​that are involved in an authorized dealer with a workshop and 50 vehicles on the farm, then it is clear that the companies cannot make advance payments. As an industry, we have to pull together and apply pressure to get these things straightened out as quickly as possible.

AH: Were all businesses insured at all?

D. P. Grün: I can only speak for myself: I am insured and have not only natural hazards but also interruption insurance. It’s important – you can’t start working again immediately after the flood. Nevertheless you have to keep paying the wages. I can therefore only advise you to take out insurance over and over again.

AH: There is currently a great willingness to help all over Germany. Many want to help but don’t know how. How can retailers help their counterparts affected by the flood?

D. P. Grün: It’s best to just ask! Many businesses that are still intact have begun to serve the customers of their injured colleagues without fishing into their customer base. We at the guild also want to set up an aid project to compensate for staff shortages in individual companies. As a guild chief, I also approach people again and again and ask: Where can we help? These are often small things like a pump to get the water out of the cellar. But there are also cases where a company runs out of liquid funds and needs help at short notice. Many colleagues from the Ennepe / Ruhr district, which is not so badly affected, also simply drove their people to Hagen to help clean up. In this situation we have to stand together as colleagues. And we do that too – I’m proud of my guild and the whole city.

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AH: Thank you for the interview!

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