Knee-deep in sewage: German rescuers race to avert health emergency in flood areas

By Ann-Kathrin Weis and Andi Kranz

AHRWEILER, Germany (Reuters) – Red Cross volunteers and emergency services in Germany deployed emergency stand-pipes and mobile vaccination vans to flood-devastated regions on Tuesday, attempting to avert a public health emergency.

Last week’s freak floods killed more than 160 people, and wrecked basic services in the hilly villages of the Ahrweiler district, leaving thousands of residents knee-deep in debris and without sewage or drinking water.

“We have no water, we have no electricity, we have no gas. The toilet can’t be flushed,” said Ursula Schuch. “Nothing is working. You can’t shower…I am nearly 80 years old and I have never experienced anything like it.”

Few have, in a prosperous corner of one of the world’s richest countries, and that sense of disbelief was widely echoed among residents and aid workers coming to terms with the chaos caused by the floods.

If the clean-up operation does not move swiftly ahead, more disease will come in the floods’ wake, just as many had come to believe the coronavirus pandemic was nearly beaten, with rats coming in to feast on the discarded contents of freezers.

Few recovery workers are able to take the kind of anti-infection precautions that are possible in more ordered circumstances, so mobile vaccination plans have come to the region.

“Everything has been destroyed by the water. But not the damn virus,” said Olav Kullak, head of vaccine coordination in the region.

“And since the people now have to work side by side and have no chance of obeying any corona rules, we at least have to try to give them the best protection via vaccination.”

(Reporting by Reuters TV, Writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Raissa Kasolowsky)

New York City declares war on rats with $32 million plan

FILE PHOTO - A rat's head rests as it is constricted in an opening in the bottom of a garbage can in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., October 18, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

By Riham Alkousaa

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City on Wednesday announced a $32 million plan to reduce the rat population by 70 percent in the city’s three most infested neighborhoods by the end of 2018.

The three targeted neighborhoods are in Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn.

Rats are seen as a public health threat as carriers of disease, and as a plague on the quality of life.

Since the beginning of 2017, the New York City Health Department has received more than 10,000 complaints of rat sightings, and more than 15 percent of the more than 24,000 properties inspected in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx showed “Active Rat Signs,” the mayor’s office said.

“We refuse to accept rats as a normal part of living in New York City,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.

The plan will begin to roll out in September, and multiple city agencies, including the Sanitation, Parks and Health departments, will be involved.

Most of the money will be spent on improvements in public housing apartment buildings, replacing dirt basement floors with concrete “rat pads” and installing solar trash compactors with a “mail-box” opening to replace the 20-year-old compactors now in use.

Wire waste baskets on city streets will be replaced with new steel ones. Both the new trash compactors and new trash baskets will dramatically diminish rats’ access to food sources.

“The best way to eliminate rats is to deprive them of food, including garbage in homes and litter on New York City streets,” Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said in the statement.

The city had cut its budget for rodent control programs by $1.5 million in 2010 to help reduce its overall deficit, but four years later, with estimates of 2 million rats sharing space with the city’s population of 8 million, the Health Department started a $3.5 million program targeting rat colonies.

(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Freedom Tower Infested By Rats

The new beacon of freedom on the New York City skyline is infested with rats.

Staff members with Conde Nast publishing…who produce upscale magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair…say the rat infestation has reached the point that it’s almost impossible for to continue working in the building.

“A bunch ate through the ceiling of a sports editor’s office and crawled all over his desk and left poops on his keyboard,” said a staff member. “They ate through his rug to fit under his door.”

Staffers have been prohibited from bringing food into their offices.

The problem has been getting worse since November when the company began moving into 1 World Trade Center.

“The famed accessories closet, which was being put together with the designer wares from the old office, was taking shape when the rats got into it,” a source told Gawker. “There were droppings all over the floor, and some of the shoe boxes had been chewed into.”

Sources say that the rats began their assault through the ventilation system.

“The rats appear to have gotten in via the venting, which was being worked on even as staffers were moving in,” the source said. “Walls were being moved to accommodate last-minute design changes by Anna and Condé Nast, and it’s assumed this is how the rats got in.”