“Right now, money is not the problem,” he said. “A lot of these houses will have to be destroyed.”

Maike Haberkorn, 33, went with her husband, Rouven, 46, a nightclub bouncer, to help friends in Heimersheim, a flooded town up the Ahr River.

“The basement is like a dark mudhole,” she said with a shudder. “To be honest, after this, I wouldn’t want to live there. I would always dream of this and never forget it. I would always feel insecure.”

Dirk Wershofer, 48, covered in mud, came to clean out his parents’ home. His mother is 79 and his father, 84, with a bad case of Parkinson’s. They were trapped in an upstairs bedroom, he said, and it was almost 24 hours before his sister could get through to rescue them.

Looking down the devastated street, he said, “This looks more like the result of a war.”

With elections in September, Mr. Wershofer is sure these floods will have an impact. “People right now work, wash, sleep, work and sleep and work again. They don’t think about the government. But in a week they will be very angry.”

Farther upriver, in Altenahr, a pretty tourist town, the destruction is profound. The Ahr curves around the town, and so the flood hit from two directions, demolishing almost everything in its way.

Buildings like the pub and guesthouse, Zum Schwarzen Kreuz, which bears a reference to “the guesthouse on the bridge, 1640,” are so fully ruined that they are likely to have to be demolished.

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