Germans question flood management as hopes of finding survivors fade

Debris is seen in an area affected by flooding caused by heavy rains in Schuld, Germany, July 20, 2021. REUTERS / Thilo Schmuelgen

  • Politicians are criticized for their flood preparedness
  • The government plans first emergency aid to the tune of 200 million euros
  • Minister says more funds can be released if needed

BERLIN, July 21 (Reuters) – A relief official said on Wednesday that rescue teams were unlikely to find more survivors in the rubble of villages devastated by flooding in western Germany, and a new poll showed that many Germans felt that policymakers did not have enough to protect them.

At least 170 people died in flooding last week, Germany’s worst natural disaster in more than half a century, and thousands of people are missing.

“We are still looking for missing people as we clear roads and pump water from basements,” Sabine Lackner, deputy head of the Federal Technical Relief Agency (THW), told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.

All of the victims found now are likely to be dead, she said.

For immediate aid, the federal government will initially provide up to 200 million euros ($ 235.5 million) in emergency aid, and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday that more funds can be made available if necessary.

This will be in addition to at least € 250 million to be provided by affected states to repair damaged buildings and local infrastructure and to help people in crisis.

Scholz also said the government would contribute to the cost of rebuilding destroyed infrastructure such as roads and bridges. The full extent of the damage is not yet clear, but Scholz said reconstruction after previous floods cost around € 6 billion.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Deutschlandfunk radio that the aid would include funds to help businesses such as restaurants or hairdressers make up for lost revenue. Read more

The floods dominated the political agenda less than three months before a national election in September and raised uncomfortable questions about why Europe’s richest economy was caught off guard.

Two-thirds of Germans believe federal and regional policymakers should have done more to protect communities from flooding, an INSA survey for the mainstream German newspaper Bild revealed on Wednesday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, visiting the devastated town of Bad Muenstereifel on Tuesday, said authorities would look into what went wrong after being widely accused of not being prepared despite severe weather warnings from meteorologists. Read more

($ 1 = 0.8490 euros)

Written by Maria Sheahan, edited by Timothy Heritage

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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