Germany Rolls Out $470 Million Package to Start Flood Recovery

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet approved a 400 million-euro ($470 million) aid package to provide immediate help for people in areas devastated by floods in western Germany.

The funds represent an initial estimate and reconstruction costs could run into the billions over the long term, according to Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, citing damage of about 6 billion euros from the last such disaster.

“We will be prepared to mobilize whatever is necessary,” he said at a press conference in Berlin on Wednesday.

The federal government will make half the funds available, with the rest coming from hard-hit states, including North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate. The money will come from the current budget and will be made distributed by the states to the people affected as quickly as possible, Scholz said.

“We can do this; we have the conditions. It can move forward right away,” he said.

The flood, which has killed more than 160 people, has shown initial signs of shaking up the campaign to lead Europe’s largest economy. Merkel’s Christian Democratic-led bloc saw its lead over the Greens narrow to nine percentage points after the group’s backing fell two points to 28% in a Forsa poll for RTL/ntv published on Wednesday -- the first to partially take in the impact.

Germany Rolls Out $470 Million Package to Start Flood Recovery

Armin Laschet, North Rhine-Westphalia’s premier and the conservatives’ candidate, was pilloried over the weekend for laughing in the background as the German president solemnly offered condolences for the flood’s victims.

“Even after his appearances in the areas affected by the flood disaster, he remains largely devoid of contour and color,” Manfred Guellner, head of the Forsa polling institute, said in an email. “The candidate’s weakness has led to a renewed decline in sympathy for his party.”

After touring a flood-ravaged town near Bonn with Laschet, Merkel promised prompt financial support for rebuilding efforts. Laschet -- still the clear front-runner ahead of he Greens’ Annalena Baerbock and SPD’s Scholz -- said his state would double the amount.

While the catastrophe put climate change at the top of the public agenda, the Greens have so far failed to capitalize, with support steady at 19%. The Social Democrats picked up one point to 16%.

For the poll, Forsa surveyed 2,503 people between July 13 and July 19, with a margin of error of +/-2.5 points. The floods started on July 14.

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