German cabinet approves $470m in flood relief
BERLIN: 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-let “grand coalition” government unlocked some 400 million euros ($470 million) in immediate relief.
Half will come from the federal government of Europe’s top economy and the rest from the 16 regional states, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said.
“We will make sure that life can go on,” Scholz told reporters in Berlin.
He said the coming months would bring a “billions-strong reconstruction programme to clear the devastation and restore infrastructure” including roads, bridges and railway lines.
“We will rebuild -- rebuild businesses, rebuild factories, rebuild buildings,” he said. The government said it would apply for assistance from a EU “solidarity fund” set aside for natural catastrophes.
The damage caused by the floods is likely to cost the insurance sector up to five billion euros ($5.9 billion), the GDV industry association said, calling the disaster “one of the most devastating storms in recent history.”
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.
Power and drinking water supplies were compromised in many areas while mobile communication networks were still down.
Hubert Pauly, head of the vintners association in the Ahr Valley, told business magazine Wirtschatswoche that botles and barrels of red wine valued at some 50 million euros had been lost.
On Wednesday the regional government in Belgium’s hard-hit Wallonia pledged a total of two billion euros in reconstruction aid ater what it called “unprecedented” destruction from the floods.
The tragedy which let at least 31 dead in
Belgium combined with the year-long COVID-19 pandemic is making for a subdued celebration of the country’s national day on Wednesday.
King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, wearing face masks, atended a religious ceremony in central Brussels.
The public outside the Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula were mostly kept at bay for health security reasons.
Even the national parade on Wednesday aternoon was reduced in size out of respect for the flood victims.
There will also be no fireworks to cap the national day late Wednesday.