Merkel’s Government Vows Fixes to Warning System After Floods
(Bloomberg) -- Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government pledged to upgrade warning systems following fierce criticism that Germany’s emergency alerts failed as flooding killed over 160 people.
While alarm systems, including a warning app backed by the federal government, had functioned, last week’s catastrophic flooding “show that we need to do more and to improve,” Martina Fietz, a deputy government spokeswoman, said in Berlin on Monday.
The flooding in two western German states sent shockwaves across Germany 10 weeks before the voters to go polls, potentially shaking up a campaign in which Merkel’s Christian Democratic-led bloc appeared poised to retain the chancellorship.
Armin Laschet, the CDU candidate and state premier of the hard-hit state of North Rhine-Westphalia, compounded his party’s predicament over the weekend by chuckling on camera in a devastated area as the German president solemnly promised aid.
While it’s still too early to predict how the natural disaster will impact the campaign for the Sept. 26 election, a renewed focus on climate change as an urgent political issue stood to help the Greens.
German authorities tallied at least 163 confirmed deaths, more than two-thirds of them in the district of Ahrweiler, a hilly region abutting the Rhine river south of Cologne.
In Berlin, government officials are working on a package of immediate assistance and reconstruction aid to be approved by Merkel’s cabinet on Wednesday. Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, the Social Democrats’ candidate, promised at least 300 million euros ($354 million).
Merkel on Sunday toured the damage from one of Germany’s worst natural disasters in decades. The floods, which began last week, cut off villages as rivers burst their banks and swept away cars.
“It is terrifying,” Merkel, who leaves office after the election, said Sunday as she surveyed the damage in Rhineland-Palatinate. “There are barely words in the German language to describe the devastation that’s been wrought here.”
Laschet, whose gaffe was pilloried on social media, took to damage control as he joined Interior Minister Horst Seehofer in affected regions Monday. He made an address late Sunday on broadcaster WDR, promising all necessary assistance and saying that reconstruction could take months or years.
With flood warnings sounding in Germany’s southern and eastern states of Bavaria and Saxony, the specter of more-frequent weather disasters has resounded for German voters.
“We clearly see a link to climate change,” Ernst Rauch, chief climate scientist for German reinsurer Munich Re, said in a Bloomberg TV interview. “The frequency and intensity of these events is going to increase.
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