Perilous rescue effort after landslide in Germany

20th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

The risk of further landslides meant that the only way to look for the three missing in Nachterstedt between Leipzig and Hanover was with heat detectors on board police helicopters.

Nachterstedt -- Dangerous conditions were severely hampering efforts in Germany on Sunday to find three people missing since a huge landslide around an old coal mine swept away their homes.

The risk of further landslides meant that the only way to look for the three missing in Nachterstedt between Leipzig and Hanover was with heat detectors on board police helicopters, authorities said.

One house and half of a second building disappeared in the early hours of Saturday morning when an estimated million cubic metres (35 million cubic feet) of earth and rocks subsided into a nearby lake, the Concordia-See.

The premier of the state of Saxony Wolfgang Boehmer declared the incident a "regional catastrophe" as around 40 people were evacuated from nearby houses and the 350-hectare (865-acre) lake was closed to the public.

The three missing included a couple from the first house and a man from the second. The latter's deaf and dumb son was accounted for after initially being reported missing. His stepmother survived because she was working night shift.

Ekkehard and Elke Schirrmeister, who lived in the first house, survived only because they were on holiday, returning on Saturday to find their home gone.

"We have lost everything. We have nothing: no house, no cars, no papers, no photos," Elke Schirrmeister said.

"We were always told that it was safe to live here," her 70-year-old husband said.

AFP/Expatica

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