Floods: Berlin allocates first emergency aid to victims

Angela Merkel’s government on Wednesday approved first emergency aid to relieve victims of deadly floods in western Germany, where reconstruction promises to be long and will amount to billions of euros.

The Council of Ministers has adopted immediate federal aid of 200 million euros while the regions, responsible for civil protection, will pay an identical sum, announced the Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz at a press conference.

“We are going to ensure that life begins again,” assured the Social Democratic minister, reiterating Chancellor Angela Merkel’s promise to pay the money “quickly and in an unbureaucratic way”.

It is a question of dealing with the most urgent, in particular by securing buildings and infrastructures damaged in the regions most affected by the floods, and by helping those who have lost everything, or live in precarious conditions, without drinking water or electricity. .

“If it turns out that we need more, then we will give more,” the minister promised.

The floods of July 14 and 15, the biggest natural disaster in recent decades in Germany, caused the death of 174 people in the country, according to a latest report drawn up Wednesday evening.

In Belgium, 31 people died, bringing the provisional toll of bad weather in Europe to 205 victims. The government of the Walloon region has also announced immediate aid in the form of an interest-free loan of 2,500 euros per household “to take care of basic needs”.

A reconstruction program for the benefit of disaster victims

These sums are a very first step. Berlin also plans to call on the European Solidarity Fund, which provides financial support to EU member states in the event of natural disasters.

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And above all they will be supplemented by a reconstruction program which will amount to several billion euros, estimated Mr. Scholz, judging still premature to assess the needs more precisely. Wallonia for its part indicated that it would allocate an envelope of 2 billion.

In 2013, Germany had spent some 6 billion euros during the floods of the Elbe and the Danube which had hit a total of eleven Länder, recalled Horst Seehofer, Minister of the Interior, specifying that the order of magnitude of the current loss would be higher.

The German federation of insurers GDV already announced on Wednesday that the insured damage would cost insurance professionals between 4 and 5 billion euros.

The total bill will be much higher since in the two most affected regions of western Germany, many inhabitants are not insured against natural disasters: the coverage rate against this risk is 37% in the Rhineland. Palatinate and 47% in North Rhine-Westphalia.

The human toll is still likely to increase, while more than a hundred people are missing in Germany.

A week after the floods, “it is unfortunately very likely that we will no longer be able to rescue” survivors, said Sabine Lackner, vice-president of the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW), on Wednesday.

Long-term work

The rehabilitation of cities and infrastructure will be “a long-term job“, has already warned Angela Merkel, who will leave power at the end of the legislative elections of September 26.

The conservative pretender to his succession, Armin Laschet, spoke to him of “months, even years” before erasing the wounds of the tragedy.

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Roads, bridges, stations, water and gas pipes: many infrastructures have suffered significant damage which will require major repairs.

And investments will also be necessary to prevent future disasters.

Germany, like the rest of Europe, will have to get used to accelerating natural disasters, warns Wolf Dombrowsky, professor of disaster management at the private Steinbeis institute in Berlin.

“What we see – fields of debris in river basins – this will happen more and more often,” he warns in an interview with AFP.

“We should now fundamentally change our entire law on construction, that on housing, urban land use planning” while creating “expansion zones for waterways”, he adds.

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