Merkel pledges aid, climate action after floods leave at least 190 dead

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Photo taken on July 17, 2021 shows a road damaged in floods in Bad Muenstereifel, western Germany. The death toll of severe floods in western Germany reached 141 by Saturday afternoon, reported the German Press Agency (dpa). (Photo by Tang Ying/Xinhua)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was visiting flood-ravaged areas in the country on Sunday as the death toll in Western Europe climbed to at least 190.

“It is a surreal and ghostly situation, I would almost say that the German language is struggling to find the words to describe the devastation that has been caused,” Merkel told reporters after assessing damage in one of the affected towns.

She promised that “the federal government and the regions will act together to gradually restore order” in the devastated areas.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said an emergency package of at least €300 million would be tabled at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, ahead of a vast reconstruction program of several billion.

Merkel furthermore vowed to redouble political focus on curbing climate change, which many have blamed for the disaster.

“Germany is a strong country and we will stand up to this force of nature in the short term — but also in the medium and long term, through policy that pays more regard to nature and the climate than we did in recent years. That will be necessary too,” she said.

 

Germany has borne the brunt of the extreme weather with at least 159 people killed, mainly in Rhineland-Palatinate state and neighbouring North Rhine-Westphalia.

In Belgium, the death toll rose to 31 casualties on Sunday. 163 citizens were still missing, the country’s crisis centre said.

Austria, the Netherlands, France and Switzerland have also been hit by flooding, the worst Europe has seen in living memory.

Clean-up underway

As waters subsided after devastating floods in Germany and Belgium, a huge clean-up was underway on Sunday.

The storms destroyed roads and bridges and reduced houses to rubble and mud.

Heavy rain and flooding continued on Saturday in other parts of Europe, but in Germany the waters receded to leave businesses and livelihoods destroyed.

The village of Wassenberg flooded when the nearby dam overflowed, leaving many inhabitants in shock.

“What can we do? Everything is broken,” said one man summing up the situation.

On the outskirts of Erftstadt in North Rhine-Westphalia, highway 265 looked more like a river than a road on Saturday.

The German armed forces were busy recovering vehicles trapped by the floodwaters.

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