Almost a week after the devastating floods in two regions of western Germany, which caused the death of at least 170 people and enormous damage to houses and infrastructure, the federal government approved a 200 million euro aid package on Wednesday to provide immediate aid to people in the devastated areas, while preparing the creation of a reconstruction fund. The two affected Länder, North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, will have to complete the emergency item up to 400 million, although the first, the most populous in the country with 18 million people, has already announced that it will pay out 200 million from the start. of euros.
“Immediate aid is for the people who have lost everything,” said Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, at a hearing in Berlin, together with the head of the Interior, Horst Seehofer, shortly after the Council of Ministers approved the corresponding bill to address the most urgent after the worst floods in decades. “The objective of this financial aid is to repair immediate damage to buildings, agricultural and forestry means of production, including the commercial economy, and local municipal and business infrastructures, as well as to save emergency situations,” the text states. “If more money is needed, the federal government will give more money,” said Scholz. “We will do whatever it takes. Help will be provided quickly and without bureaucracy. Anyone can trust it now. ” “We will do whatever it takes to help everyone as quickly as possible,” he insisted.
The authorities of the two affected States will decide the recipients, the amount and the format of the aid. “We must quickly convey the message that there is a future, that we take care of it together, that this is a matter for everyone to help as a country,” added the minister. Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a visit to the Bad Münstereifel municipality on Tuesday that she was confident that the money would reach the people in “a matter of days.”
The Executive emphasized the message that the aid will be quick and without bureaucratic complications. A survey by the Insa Institute for the newspaper Bild, released this Wednesday, affirms that 67% of the population believes that federal and regional authorities should have done more to protect cities and towns from flooding.
The Government also foresees a reconstruction fund of about 1,000 million euros. However, the exact amount of the fund will only be decided once the extent of the damages is calculated. Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer said it is still too early to make an accurate assessment of the damage. “In the valley of the [río] Ahr 20 of the 35 bridges were swept away. This gives an idea of the enormous work that awaits us ”, he added. The public railway company, for its part, spoke of “massive damage” in 80 stations. In the affected areas, more than 600 kilometers of railways have been destroyed. The association of insurers, meanwhile, estimates that mishaps in assets with policies will amount to between 4,000 and 5,000 million euros, according to the entity’s manager, Jörg Asmussen.
The most tragic balance, that of the deceased, is not yet closed. At least 170 deaths have been recorded, more than half in the Ahrweiler district near Bonn. “The death toll will continue to rise,” Sabine Lackner, vice president of the Government’s Technical Assistance Service (THW), told the RND newspaper group. “We continue to search for missing persons while cleaning the streets or removing water from basements. But, unfortunately, at this moment the most likely is that we can only find corpses, “he said.
The number of disappeared is not clear, since attempts are still being made to contact wanted people after the disaster, which also damaged telephone masts and left many citizens incommunicado. On Monday, the Koblenz police said that some 150 missing persons remained on their lists.
While the government focuses on the recovery, the political debate around the failures of the disaster warning system does not abate. Next week, the Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, and the president of the Federal Office for Population Protection and Disaster Relief, Armin Schuster, will appear before a Bundestag commission that seeks to determine possible responsibilities in the disaster and analyze improvements. in alert systems. Given the connection problems of mobile alert applications during the floods, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer has suggested that the population be alerted by SMS.
Karl-Heinz Bamse, president of the Firefighters Association, opts for a different method. “There are many people, older people, who do not have a mobile phone. What needs to be reinforced is the analog alert. The siren systems must be recovered. They are heard everywhere, understood and taken seriously ”, he said.