The Chronicle Herald (Metro)

Germany counts cost of floods as hopes of finding survivors fade

More than 170 died in last week’s flooding

- KIRSTI KNOLLE RIHAM ALKOUSAA

BERLIN — A relief official dampened hopes on Wednesday of finding more survivors in the rubble of villages devastated by floods in western Germany, as a poll showed many Germans felt policymake­rs had not done enough to protect them.

More than 170 people died in last week’s flooding, Germany’s worst natural disaster in more than half a century, and thousands went missing.

“We are still looking for missing persons as we clear roads and pump water out of basements,” Sabine Lackner, deputy chief of the Federal Agency for Technical Relief, told Redaktions­netzwerk Deutschlan­d.

Any victims found now are likely to be dead, she said.

One woman in Insul, in the rural Eifel region, said people had emerged from their houses like ghosts last week to see whether their neighbours were alive. In the Ahrweiler district, of which Insul is part, 123 people died.

For immediate relief, the federal government will initially provide up to 200 million euros in emergency aid, and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said more funds can be made available if needed.

That will come on top of at least 250 million euros provided by the affected states to repair buildings and damaged local infrastruc­ture and to help people in crisis situations.

Scholz said the government would contribute to the cost of rebuilding infrastruc­ture such as roads and bridges. The full extent of the damage is not clear, but Scholz said that rebuilding after previous floods cost about six billion euros.

PUBLIC CRITICISM

The floods have dominated the political agenda before a national election in September and raised uncomforta­ble questions about why Europe’s richest economy was caught flat-footed.

Two-thirds of Germans believe that federal and regional policymake­rs should have done more to protect communitie­s from flooding, a survey by the INSA institute for German mass-circulatio­n paper Bild showed on Wednesday.

Interior minister Horst Seehofer, who faced calls from opposition politician­s to resign over the high death toll, said there would be no shortage of money for reconstruc­tion.

“That is why people pay taxes, so that they can receive help in situations like this. Not everything can be insured,” he told a news conference.

Insured losses from the floods may total four billion to five billion euros, said the GDV insurance industry associatio­n. Damage in the states of North Rhine-westphalia and Rhineland-palatinate is likely to exceed the 4.65 billion euros recorded after a deluge in August 2002, it said.

The estimate does not include losses from the southern German state of Bavaria and in Saxony in the east last weekend.

Only around 45 per cent of homeowners in Germany have insurance that covers flood damage, according to the GDV, triggering a discussion about the need for compulsory insurance.

“As the time interval between heavy natural disasters gets shorter and shorter, one needs a debate about a protection scheme and how it could be designed,” Seehofer said.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Deutschlan­dfunk radio aid would include funds to help businesses such as restaurant­s or hair salons make up for lost revenue.

 ?? REUTERS ?? People remove debris and rubbish following heavy rainfalls in Bad Muensterei­fel, North RhineWestp­halia state, Germany.
REUTERS People remove debris and rubbish following heavy rainfalls in Bad Muensterei­fel, North RhineWestp­halia state, Germany.

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