August 1, 2021

In Germany, question time after the floods

This is always the case after a disaster: past the time of astonishment comes that of questions. In Germany, the change took place on Sunday July 18, when a journalist asked Angela Merkel if the terrible toll of the floods that hit the Rhineland three days earlier was not linked to failures in warning systems.

“Of course we can always do better”, replied the German Chancellor. “But, in some situations, things happen so quickly that you cannot totally escape the forces of nature”, she added, greeting “Heroism” various rescue services, civil and military, who came to the aid of the victims. Sunday evening, the provisional toll was 160 dead in Germany.

Reportage : “We lost everything. But at least we have life left ”: Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, ravaged by floods

This brief exchange took place in front of the town hall of Adenau, a small town in Rhineland-Palatinate, where Angela Merkel held a press conference after going to the neighboring municipality of Schuld, totally devastated by the floods. “The German language struggles to find the words to describe such devastation”said the Chancellor, whose intention on Sunday was not to enter into a debate on responsibilities, but to promise a swift response from the federal government. As of Wednesday, it must adopt, in the Council of Ministers, emergency aid of around 300 million euros, before a longer-term reconstruction plan, which should amount to billions of euros.

“Monumental failure” of the warning system

It was a British researcher, Hannah Cloke, professor of hydrology at the University of Reading and member of the team that participated in the development of the European Flood Warning System (EFAS), who launched the controversy over the alleged failures of the German authorities. Asked Friday, July 16, by the public channel ZDF, she said that “Everything was already predictable several days in advance” and, “Despite this, the alert chain broke, so that people did not receive the necessary warnings”. A sentence of his speech was particularly relayed by the German media: “It is not normal that in 2021 we have to deplore such a large number of victims. “

“In many places, people thought it was heavy rains, but they did not understand the seriousness of the event” Gerd Landsberg, President of the German Federation of Towns and Municipalities

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