The Guardian (Nigeria)

Europe floods: Merkel shocked by ‘ surreal’ devastatio­n


GERMAN Chancellor, Angela Merkel has expressed shock at what she described as surreal destructio­n caused by last week’s flooding.

Mrs. Merkel visited affected areas of western Germany yesterday, talking to survivors and emergency workers.

At least 188 people in Germany and Belgium are now known to have died in the floods.

Heavy rain is continuing to wreak havoc, with attention now shifting to parts of Austria and southern Germany.

Emergency crews rescued people from homes in the Austrian region of Salzburg, where floodwater­s submerged the streets of one town. The fire brigade said the capital Vienna saw more rainfall in an hour on Saturday night than in the previous seven weeks.

In the Upper Bavaria region, one person was killed as heavy rains deluged basements and roads.

Meanwhile in western Germany, authoritie­s said the Steinbacht­al dam, southwest of Bonn, remained at risk of breaching after residents were evacuated from homes downstream.

European leaders have blamed climate change for the floods, which have also affected Switzerlan­d, Luxembourg and the Netherland­s.

Experts say global warming makes torrential rainfall more likely. The world has already warmed by about 1.2C since the industrial era began.

Mrs. Merkel said the world had to “be faster in the battle against climate change.”

She walked through the badly- hit village of Schuld, surveying the damage and speaking to residents and emergency workers.

Later she pledged to fasttrack aid for reconstruc­tion.

“We are by your side,” she said, describing the situation as terrifying.

“It is shocking - I can almost say that the German language doesn’t have words for the destructio­n that’s been wreaked.

“What I could see, however, is also incredibly comforting - how people are sticking together, how they are helping each other, the solidarity that is there,” she said.

Finance Minister, Olaf Scholz said a package of € 300m ($ 354m; £ 257m) in immediate aid would be proposed at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

The scale of the damage is becoming clear, as rescue crews continue to look for victims.

At least 157 people are now known to have died in the floods in Germany, including four firefighte­rs. Some 31 people have died in Belgium.

The states of North RhineWestp­halia, RhinelandP­alatinate and Saarland have been the worst affected in Germany.

Thousands of people were reported missing during the height of the floods, but many have since been accounted for.

In the spa town of Bad Neuenahr in RhinelandP­alatinate’s Ahrweiler district, residents were determined to begin the clean- up operation, scraping mud from the streets and clearing piles of debris.

But the task is huge, with many businesses and livelihood­s in the town swept away, electricit­y and gas still cut off and communicat­ion lines destroyed.

“Everything is completely destroyed, you don’t recognise the scenery,” wine shop owner Michael Lang told Reuters.

Baker Gregor Degen told AFP

news agency he had gathered a group of neighbours to start clearing away mud and debris.

He had been ready to go to work the day after the floods but water levels were too high, he said. More than 110 people have been killed and 670 injured in Ahrweiler, police say.

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