Inferno in germany

Disaster lurks everywhere. In the heights of the Alps as in the depths of the North Sea and recently also inside the earth. Whether "The avalanche of the century, "The Storm Surge" or now the new, nine-million-euro RTL two-parter "Vulkan": When it comes to artfully destroying entire places, television doesn't let itself be licked, and viewers don't have to ask for long. Nearly twelve million watched spellbound in 2006 as RTL chased the Elbe water through the streets of Hamburg in 1962. The rampage of nature magically attracts us. "We no longer have experience in dealing with real serious cases. This leads to the fact that we fantasize about catastrophes almost with relish.", says the Bamberg sociologist Gerhard Schulze.

Eruption possible at any time

Fantastic is also the story of the new RTL event movie. Volcanoes erupt in the Philippines – but in the Eifel region? "A sudden eruption there is possible at any time", warns the geologist Prof. Ulrich Schreiber (University of Duisburg-Essen). His colleague Hans- Ulrich Schmincke (University of Kiel), one of the world's most renowned volcanologists, also assumes that the Eifel is facing a new phase of geological activity. When exactly the lava will burn our feet, nobody can say. The last outbreak was 12 900 years ago. The next one might happen in just a few weeks. But maybe not for another 3000 years.

In the movie everything happens very fast. A papier-mache village was erected for the shoot, where the pyrotechnicians let it rip, with the star ensemble of Matthias Koeberlin, Yvonne Catterfeld, Armin Rohde, Heiner Lauterbach and Katja Riemann right in the middle.

Several tens of thousands of Germans would have to die

In reality, the consequences of a volcanic eruption would be devastating. The nearly 500-degree pyroclastic flows spewing from a volcano would shoot downhill at up to 100 mph. Huge amounts of pumice, ash and gas would be ejected into the atmosphere. The sulfuric acid released during the eruption would fall back to earth as acid rain. Fields and fields that would not yet have been destroyed by this chemical blast would be buried under a layer of ash several meters high. Without timely evacuation, tens of thousands of people would likely die. Almost half a million Germans would be directly affected.

The economic damage caused by a volcanic eruption in the Eifel region can hardly be quantified. The road traffic would come to a standstill because the ash would clog the air filters of the cars. Stations and airport buildings, bridges and power poles would collapse under the weight of the ash masses that had become wet and heavy from the rain. It is calculated that a breakdown in freight traffic in Germany costs between 25 and 50 million euros on the first day – a sum that quickly swells to several billion if more and more companies have to stop production due to delivery bottlenecks. In addition, a drop in the average global temperature, as happened after the 1991 eruption of Pinatubo in the Philippines, could endanger crops. Higher heating costs and greater energy consumption would put a strain on the wallet.

Natural disasters are increasing worldwide, the cost of restoring destroyed regions is exploding (see graph). According to Munich Re, an insurance underwriter, the number of weather-related disasters alone has tripled since 1980, likely as a result of climate change. Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and parts of the Gulf Coast four years ago, destroyed $81 billion in assets. Europe also suffers from the caprices of nature. In France, about 15,000 people died from a heat wave in 2003. Four years later, violent storms swept across Germany. The reforestation of destroyed forests and the repair of the infrastructure burdened the budgets with six billion euros.

Forecasts for Germany do not bode well: by 2050, experts expect losses of $130 billion unless adequate protective measures are taken. Volcanoes, however, hardly play a role in the mathematical models of scientists. For Germany, researchers expect above all more precipitation, violent storms, including tornadoes, more flooding and also more thunderstorms. Maybe a topic for a new event movie: the big thunderstorm.