Cologne, Thursday evening. At the DLRG lifeboat headquarters, it is the start of a planning session to prepare for the anticipated flood. In focus: Cologne’s Kasselberg district. The team led by Michael Grohe starts to prepare for the driving and ferry services that will soon be needed. The centrepiece of the operation: Unimog, the off-road professional.

The motorised amphibian.

When the access road to Kasselberg is flooded, access by car or bicycle is impossible. The water is too high. But often not sufficiently high to warrant the use of boats. The latter only being used in Kasselberg when the water level is above 9.50 metres. If the water level is lower, the water is not deep enough for boats.

The people of Kasselberg often need the support of a special water taxi. That’s when the DLRG comes along with the Unimog. Like an amphibian that is equally happy on land and in water, the extreme off-roading all-rounder comes into its own. And is especially useful thanks to its fording depth of up to 1.2 metres.

Kasselberg hit first.

The floods that hit Cologne in the first week of 2018 exceeded the critical level on Saturday night. As always, the district of Kasselberg in Cologne-Merkenich was hit first. “Over a level of about 8 metres, the Rhine floods the campsite first, then the road in front of the houses of Kasselberg’s residents,” explains Grohe. The procedure is then always the same: while the residents move temporarily into the upper floors of their houses, the DLRG sets up a mobile rescue station on a nearby hill. The Unimog is directly next to it, at the ready.