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Germany's Chancellor Merkel visits flood-stricken Bad Muenstereifel
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WORLD NEWS:
Merkel heads to flood zone facing questions over preparedness


German Chancellor Angela Merkel and North-Rhine Westphalian State Premier Armin Laschet visit the area affected by floods caused by heavy rainfalls, in Iversheim, a suburb of Bad Muenstereifel, North-Rhine Westphalian state, Germany July 20, 2021. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/Pool

July 20, 2021

By Holger Hansen

BERLIN (Reuters) – German authorities came under increasing fire on Tuesday over the deadly floods that engulfed large parts of the country last week leaving Europe’s richest economy caught flat-footed by a disaster that had been predicted days earlier.

As Chancellor Angela Merkel travelled to the disaster zone for the second time, there were growing questions about how well prepared local and national authorities were for the floods that swept through defenceless towns and villages last week.

“There were warnings about the masses of debris and floodwaters that were rolling towards these people and these warnings were not handled at all in the way such warnings should have been,” Julian Reichelt, editor of Bild, Germany’s largest circulation newspaper, said in an online panel discussion.

With the country about 10 weeks away from national elections, the floods have put the crisis management skills of Germany’s leaders on the agenda, with opposition politicians suggesting the death toll revealed serious failings in flood preparedness.

“For some of the people who live here it means an awful situation, many houses are uninhabitable,” Merkel said during her visit. “The only consolation is people’s solidarity.”

The floods killed more than 160 people in Germany, tearing through villages, sweeping away houses, roads and bridges and highlighting gaps in how warnings of severe weather are passed on to the public.

Government officials have rejected suggestions they had done too little to prepare and said warning systems had worked. The parliamentary domestic affairs committee is due to meet next week to discuss how well the systems functioned.

Several experts said the unprecedented scale of the floods meant existing flood defences would inevitably be overwhelmed. But critics pointed to failures in warning sirens, delayed evacuations and patchy mobile phone warning systems whose effectiveness was limited due to networks being knocked out and data protection concerns.

Also, in Germany’s decentralised system, responsibility for disaster protection is split between the federal government and regional and local authorities, so the response can vary from one town to the next.

There were also calls for greater awareness among the population of the risks of severe floods.

“Well-prepared, risk-aware citizens are more valuable than any state welfare system,” said Armin Schuster, head of the BBK, the federal agency for civil protection and disaster relief.

COSTS

Almost 20 years since former centre-left Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder won reelection in large part because of his assured handling of severe floods in eastern Germany, the disaster has inevitably cast its shadow over the upcoming ballot.

An opinion poll conducted since the flooding began last week showed a slight gain for Merkel’s Christian Democrat party (CDU). But Armin Laschet, the state premier put forward by the party to succeed her as chancellor has seen his own approval hit after he was filmed laughing as President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited one of the flood zones.

The financial cost of Germany’s worst natural disaster in almost 60 years will also weigh heavily on the next government.

Coming on top of unprecedented spending on coronavirus relief measures, the cost is sure to run into the billions. Bavarian Environment Minister Thorsten Glauber said his southern state would spend 40 billion euros on flood defences in the coming 20 years.

For immediate relief, the federal government plans to provide 200 million euros ($236 million) in emergency aid to repair buildings and damaged local infrastructure, and to help people in crisis situations, a draft document, due to go to cabinet on Wednesday, showed.

That will come on top of 200 million euros that would come from the 16 federal states. The government also hopes for financial support from the European Union’s solidarity fund.

($1 = 0.8487 euros)

(Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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Hmm. yes i understand the
question, you know it's been at least
15 years since I've been following the news, no 10 my folks do that, hmm. what was the question again !?
Excuse me, do you remember
where you read about this ?
Are you kidding !?
of course I can, it was here
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