German TV reporter suspended after being caught smearing mud on herself at flood site

Roving reporters love to get stuck into the stories they cover on the ground – but one German presenter may have taken things a step too far.

Susanna Ohlen, a 39-year-old reporter for RTL, has been suspended after she smeared mud on her face and clothes while covering the country’s dire floods, in an attempt to give viewers the impression she had joined the rescue effort.

After smearing mud on herself, Ms Ohlen then presented a news package at the scene of floods in North Rhine-Westphalia under the heading, “RTL presenter Susanna Ohlen lends a hand in Bad Münstereifel”.

Unfortunately for Ms Ohlen, a resident of Bad Münstereifel spotted her rubbing the mud on herself and filmed the incident, leading to her suspension.

The embarrassing stunt was exposed as Germany continues to battle catastrophic flooding in North Rhine-Westphalia, which has killed nearly 200 people.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reacts as she addresses a media conference during a visit to flood-stricken Bad Muenstereifel

Credit: Reuters/Reuters

Turkey is also struggling with severe floods this week, while Serbia is fighting wildfires as Europe and its neighbours face  a wave of extreme weather events which experts say are linked to climate change.

After her suspension, Ms Ohlen apologised in a post on Instagram where she stressed that she had been assisting residents with the flood, just not on that particular morning.

“[I was] ashamed to be clean in front of the helpers that morning. Without thinking twice, I smeared mud on my clothes. As a journalist, this should never have happened to me. As a person who cares about the suffering of all those affected, it happened to me,” she wrote. “I am asking for your forgiveness.”

Bad Münstereifel’s historic town centre was devastated by flooding, with central streets and alleys still covered with rubble, mud and household waste.

Dozens of people are still missing in Germany, while undertakers in several regions have reported a lack of hearses due to high demand.

Residents and emergency workers clear up debris on a muddy street in Swisttal-Odendorf, North Rhine-Westphalia

Credit: BERND LAUTER/AFP/Getty Images

While authorities in the region have worked tirelessly to try and locate victims and kick start the rebuilding efforts over the past week, heavy rainfall and thunderstorms are predicted for the coming weekend.

While the forecast is for around a quarter of the rain that fell during the flood disaster, officials are concerned about the potential for flooding due to many waterways and the region’s groundwater already close to capacity.

Meanwhile in Turkey more than 200 people have been evacuated from the northeast, where heavy rain has led to chaotic scenes with cars floating down flooded streets.

Turkey’s disaster management agency said the "extreme" rainfall had led to the Arhavi river overflowing, leaving thousands without electricity.

Video footage posted online showed torrents of water gushing through the Arhavi district, as rescuers used inflatable boats to evacuate residents.

The flooding has also destroyed a number of homes and buildings, while in some areas cars were flipped onto their roofs as the water raged through the streets.  

"As a result of extreme rains, the Arhavi district of Artvin province has been flooded," a disaster management agency spokesman said.

"The Arhavi river overflowed, the regional centre and rural roads were flooded. Work continues to rescue our citizens from the natural disaster."

Süleyman Soylu, the Turkish interior minister, has arrived in northeastern Turkey and reassured residents that no one has been killed by the flooding so far, though at least two people have been injured.

One man was rescued from the rubble of a collapsed building and taken to hospital, but he is expected to make a full recovery.

Turkey’s Search and Rescue Association said it had rescued 18 people, including eight children, who were trapped in the Mencuna waterfall area.

It comes just a week after severe flooding and landslides in Turkey’s Rize province, also a result of heavy rain, which left six people dead.

Flooding in the northeastern Black Sea area of Turkey is not uncommon, with four people losing their lives to floods in August of last year.  

And in Serbia, which is facing its hottest and driest summer in 40 years, a series of wildfires have broken out in the south of the country, damaging forests and farmland.

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