German Chancellor Angela Merkel met the cabinet in Berlin on Wednesday to approve a massive emergency relief plan to rebuild flood-ravaged areas of Germany.
The worst flood in living memory killed at least 169 people in Germany at the end of last week. And including figures from neighboring Belgium and the Netherlands, the death toll rises to over 200.
The damage caused by the torrential rains has shocked authorities and left residents in shock as they seek to rebuild their lives.
After the cabinet meeting, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the federal government had agreed to allocate 200 million euros in emergency aid funds.
German news agency dpa previously reported that a first aid plan of 400 million euros ($ 471 million) was expected, with half coming from the federal government and the rest from state governments.
Later, a much larger multibillion-dollar package to rebuild critical infrastructure is planned. While the damage is still being assessed, it is believed that the damage to roads and rail networks will amount to at least € 2 billion.
The money will come from federal and regional budgets. Germany is also considering applying for relief from the EU Solidarity Fund.
A policeman looks at a piece of road that has sunk into the town of Altenahr in Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany
Floods have pushed climate change into the countryside
With Merkel set to step down as Chancellor after the next general election in September, the competition to replace her at the helm continues as candidates for her succession pitch their positions in the new context of a potentially induced extreme weather event by climate change.
Merkel and NRW Prime Minister Armin Laschet visit flood-ravaged town of Iversheim on Tuesday
During a visit to the heart of the disaster area of the medieval town of Bad Münstereifel on Tuesday, Merkel was joined by the Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Armin Laschet, president of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and current favorite to replace Merkel as chancellor.
Merkel vowed that the federal government would work as fast as possible to get aid to the devastated areas where some victims literally “ended up with nothing but clothes on their backs.” She said she hoped to get people help in “a few days.”
Laschet pledged to use the regional budget to double funding for Berlin and to use relief funds to reach victims “without bureaucracy and as quickly as possible”. He also warned that reconstruction could take “months, even years”.
How are the other main chancellor candidates reacting?
Greens candidate for chancellery Annalena Baerbock had pushed the issue of climate change into the countryside long before floods destroyed communities along the Rhine and Ahr. She called for greater coordination to warn citizens of natural disasters.
Destroyed houses near the Ahr river in Schuld, Germany last Thursday
Baerbock told the news magazine Der Spiegel, “Germany has been fortunate for decades to experience relatively few natural disasters,” however, “this means that disaster protection measures have not been sufficiently developed, although experts have since warned years against extreme weather events related to climate “.
German Vice-Chancellor and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, the Social Democrats’ candidate to replace Merkel, pledged a “multibillion-dollar stimulus package” and hoped to get money back to people as soon as possible “so that things are quickly starting to improve. “
Scholz also said he wanted changes to German disaster prevention plans and climate protection measures.
Other measures under discussion include better coordination of emergency services at local and federal levels alongside NGOs and other relief providers, as well as an SMS notification system that sends warning messages. directly on each mobile phone.
ar / sri (AFP, dpa)