'Like back in Syria': Refugees join flood clean-up

They know catastrophe all too well: these Syrians rushed to volunteer after Germany's most devastating floods in 60 years.

Helping Germans clean up their houses and renovate them, drawing on their past experiences.

Germany lost at least 180 lives in this month's flooding.

Anas Alakkad, co-organizer of the group Syrian Volunteers in Germany, said the tragedy took him right back.

"What we knew of Germany is that it was very organized, very nice, very green. And then here in the disaster area we felt like we were back in Syria. And we felt like this couldn't be happening. We must do something. And that has inspired us."

In 2015, Germany opened its borders to more than a million migrants, many of them Syrians fleeing war and poverty.

The group says hundreds of its volunteers have rushed to the flood-hit areas in western Germany.

Mouaiad Abedelbi, a Syrian volunteer who lives in Ahrweiler, said his apartment, too, was destroyed.

"Many of the Germans' houses are destroyed. And so is our apartment. We feel the same as our neighbors do. We have experienced that feeling already and now we have to feel it again. But at the end of the day, we are here to help, and we working hand in hand with the Germans to repair everything. No matter what, we are here."

Ahrweiler locals were grateful for the help.

"They are very fast and hardworking and full of ideas about how to renovate or remove something. It's great, it's a very fast team, this."

The floods have shaken up politics before a national election in September, raising uncomfortable questions about why Europe's largest economy was caught on the back foot.

According to a recent survey, two thirds of Germans believe their leaders could have done more to warn and protect communities from the flooding.

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