Flood-battered Germany approves major relief package
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet approved a huge emergency aid package Wednesday for flood-stricken regions of Germany and said billions would be needed to rebuild homes, businesses and vital infrastructure.
A week into the region’s worst flooding disaster in living memory, which has killed at least 172 in Germany and 31 more Belgium, the right-left “grand coalition” government unlocked some 400 million euros ($470 million) in immediate relief.
“We will make sure that life can go on,” Scholz told reporters in Berlin.
“We will rebuild — rebuild businesses, rebuild factories, rebuild buildings,” he said. The government said it would apply for assistance from an EU “solidarity fund” set aside for natural catastrophes.
However, the real cost is likely to be much higher as less than half of Germans in the affected states are insured against heavy rain and floods, the association said.
Hubert Pauly, head of the vintners association in the Ahr Valley, told business magazine WirtschaftsWoche that bottles and barrels of red wine valued at some 50 million euros had been lost.
– Victims ‘left with nothing’ –
“This was flooding that surpassed our imagination when you see the destruction it wrought,” the chancellor told reporters in the 17,000-strong community in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state.
“I hope it will be a matter of days,” she said, noting that she had met local victims “left with nothing but the clothes on their backs”.
Laschet pledged to double Berlin’s assistance with a cash injection from his own state budget and warned it could take “months if not years to rebuild”.
Scholz, the chancellor candidate for the Social Democrats, said Germany would have to prepare for increasingly frequent natural disasters triggered by climate change.
“We are still looking for missing people as we clear roads and pump out cellars,” the vice president of Germany’s THW civil protection agency, Sabine Lackner, told media group Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.
Annalena Baerbock, the Greens’ flag bearer for the election, said the country must prepare better for experiencing more disasters due to global warming.
“But that’s meant that the disaster protection measures haven’t been sufficiently developed, although experts have been warning for years about climate-driven extreme weather events.”