Germans question handling of floods as hopes of finding survivors fade

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BERLIN: A relief official said on Wednesday (Jul 21) that rescue crews were unlikely to find any more survivors in the rubble of villages devastated by floods in western Germany, and a new poll showed many Germans felt policymakers had not enough to protect them.

At least 170 people died in last week’s flooding, Germany’s worst natural disaster in more than half a century, and thousands went missing.

“We are still looking for missing persons as we clear roads and pump water out of basements,” Sabine Lackner, deputy chief of the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW), told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.

Any victims that are found now are likely to be dead, she said.

READ: Knee-deep in sewage: German rescuers race to avert health emergency in flood areas

READ: ‘It’s terrifying’: Merkel shaken as flood deaths rise to 188 in Europe

For immediate relief, the federal government will initially provide up to €200 million (US$235.5 million) in emergency aid, and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday more funds can be made available if needed.

That will come on top of at least €250 million to be provided from the affected states to repair buildings and damaged local infrastructure and to help people in crisis situations.

Scholz also said the government would contribute to the cost of rebuilding destroyed infrastructure such as roads and bridges. The full extent of the damage is not yet clear, but Scholz said that rebuilding after previous floods cost about €6 billion.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Deutschlandfunk radio the aid would include funds to help businesses such as restaurants or hair salons make up for lost revenue.

The floods have dominated the political agenda less than three months before a national election in September and raised uncomfortable questions about why Europe’s richest economy was caught flat-footed.

READ: Germany picks through rubble after deadly European floods

READ: Germans describe helplessness in face of flood devastation

Two-thirds of Germans believe that federal and regional policymakers should have done more to protect communities from floods, a survey by the INSA institute for German mass-circulation paper Bild showed on Wednesday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, visiting the devastated town of Bad Muenstereifel on Tuesday, said authorities would look at what had not worked after being widely accused of not being prepared despite severe weather warnings from meteorologists.

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