Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet will meet on Wednesday to approve a massive relief plan to rebuild German regions destroyed in historic floods and better protect them in the future.
A week after the region’s worst flooding in living memory, which killed at least 169 people in Germany and 200 in Europe, the government of the right-left “grand coalition” will unblock aid for demolished houses, businesses and vital infrastructure.
With damage estimated at billions of euros, Merkel told reporters on Tuesday during a visit to the hard-hit medieval town of Bad Muenstereifel that Berlin would come to help in the short and long term.
“It was a flood that was beyond our imagination when you see the destruction it caused,” Merkel told reporters after visiting what the Bild daily called the “doomsday” wreckage of the community of 17,000. people in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW).
She said the ministers would pave the way for emergency aid for citizens who have suffered losses and will do everything in their power “to get the money back to the people quickly.”
“I hope it will be a matter of days,” she said, noting that she had met local victims “who left with nothing but clothes on their backs.”
– ‘Months if not years’ –
The interim aid will be complemented by a longer-term reconstruction fund financed by the federal government and “solidarity contributions” from the 16 German regional states, she said.
Merkel was accompanied during the visit of NRW Prime Minister Armin Laschet, head of her Christian Democratic Union and favorite in the race to succeed her as Chancellor after the parliamentary elections on 26 September.
# photo1Laschet called for rescue funds to reach victims “unbureaucratically and as quickly as possible”, pledging to double aid from Berlin with an injection of funds from its own state budget .
He warned that reconstruction could take “months, even years”.
It is now confirmed that a total of 121 people have died in the flooding in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, with at least 47 victims in NRW and one in Bavaria.
At least 31 people also died in Belgium, and later torrential rains wreaked havoc in southern Germany and several other neighboring countries.
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, candidate for chancellor of the Social Democrats, said Europe’s largest economy would adopt a “multibillion reconstruction program” in addition to direct aid to victims “to get things started quickly to improve ”.
“We will manage it together,” he told the Rheinische Post daily.
“What is crucial for me is that there are consequences of what happened” including plans to make changes to German disaster prevention systems as well as climate protection measures , did he declare.
– Climate alert –
Annalena Baerbock, the Greens’ flag bearer for the election, called for a more coordinated approach to warn citizens while stressing that the country must better prepare for extreme weather events due to global warming.
“Germany has been fortunate for decades to experience relatively few natural disasters,” she told Der Spiegel magazine.
“But this means that disaster protection measures have not been sufficiently developed, although experts have for years warned against climate-related extreme weather events. ”
“Now we have to look at what worked and what didn’t, not forgetting that it was about floods like we haven’t seen for a very, very long time,” she said. declared.
© 2021 AFP