German govt to provide rapid assistance to flood victims

In the wake of the devastating flash floods that hit Germany in recent days, the government could approve emergency aid and reconstruction assistance worth billions of euros as early as Wednesday, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said.

“People can count on us not only to talk about it in these very serious hours, but also to implement things quickly,” Seehofer told reporters on Monday.

Last week, the torrential rainfall and the ensuing catastrophic floods in part of Germany blocked roads and highways, cut off electricity and swept away entire houses.

The states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate were the hardest-hit, with more than 160 people killed, around 750 injured and many still missing.

Mobile networks and electricity grids in the affected areas are still not working properly.

According to Germany’s largest mobile network operator Vodafone, one in six base stations were still cut off from the network on Monday, with many sites damaged or even completely destroyed.

Westnetz, the region’s biggest grid operator, is still busy getting electricity running again.

The task has been difficult because all buildings connected to the power lines have to be individually checked for water levels first.

In some regions like Ahrtal, it is “not foreseeable yet” when electricity will run again, according to Westnetz.

The company is currently working on “provisionally restoring electricity” with emergency generators, many of which were donated by other German companies, such as E.ON subsidiary VSE.

Although extreme summer rainfall events have always occurred, “the observed increase in frequency and intensity in recent years is clearly related to climate change”, Thomas Kesseler-Lauterkorn of the German Weather Service told Xinhua on Monday.

Nonetheless, the flash floods could be described as a “once-in-a-century event”.

Germany would face “such climate events more often in the future, and we need better prevention,” said North Rhine-Westphalia’s Minister President Armin Laschet, who visited the Steinbachtal Dam, where thousands of helpers were able to prevent a collapse of the dam and further flooding by pumping out water.