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CRIME

More shoddy building uncovered in Cologne

Fresh claims that shoddy work practices caused the collapse of the historical Cologne archive building emerged Saturday, including a report that construction firms were skimping on concrete.

More shoddy building uncovered in Cologne
Photo: DPA

Cologne city authorities were forced to repeat assurances there was no danger of further collapses as tens of thousands of Karneval revellers gather in the city this weekend.

City director Guido Kahlen said the big days of celebration on Sunday and Monday could “without doubt” go ahead.

But the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger daily cited experts who did not rule out that the underground excavations could become unstable if the Rhine River level rose to more than four metres because of heavy snowmelt.

The paper reported that too little concrete may have been used on the tunnel under the Waidmarkt area – a possible reason for collapse of the tunnel that led to the destruction of the city’s historical archive in March 2009 and two neighbouring buildings, killing two people.

North Rhine-Westphalia Building and Transport Minister Lutz Lienenkämper talked of “highly criminal actions” and demanded immediate explanations.

On Thursday, examinations had shown that at the site of the Heumarkt U-Bahn, only 17 percent of the plates meant for the supporting wall had been used. These plates were needed to stabilise the structure, the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger reported.

According to the paper, assessors from the state prosecutor’s office believe a leak into the fitted plate 11, directly beneath the archives building, flowed from groundwater in an excavation pit.

The breach could have arisen because the 3.4 metre wide shovel for digging the plate to a depth of 30 metres was damaged on an obstruction, meaning a 2.8 metre wide digging tool was substituted.

The report said a further 22 plates were installed based on incorrect surveying procedures.

On Friday, news magazine Der Spiegel reported that Cologne officials prepared evacuation plans for the Waidmarkt area last month due to safety concerns. Only after further testing did they decided against emptying a large swath of the city.

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GERMANY AND ISRAEL

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.

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