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Cologne to flood metro tunnel as Rhine rises

Cologne city officials announced on Friday that they would flood a metro tunnel under construction over the weekend to keep stable as water levels rise rapidly in the Rhine River due to spring snowmelt.

Cologne to flood metro tunnel as Rhine rises
Workers prep the Heumarkt station for flooding on Friday. Photo: DPA

The dramatic plan is meant to ensure the central Heumarkt does not collapse by bolstering concrete walls with counter pressure from some 14.5 million litres of water. The city said there was no danger the site could overflow and flood nearby buildings.

Underground building experts have already prepared the site with special scaffolding to hold hoses, which will be used to flood the site with river water on Saturday afternoon.

So far the Rhine has been rising an average of two centimetres per hour, floodwater experts reported on Friday.

Authorities have already built a separation wall between the Rathaus and Heumarkt station construction sites in preparation for the emergency flooding, a measure meant to keep the water from flooding the entire metro tunnel.

The decision to take action follows numerous reports of shoddy building practices on the underground line.

Investigators into the deadly March 3, 2009 collapse of the city’s historic archive building believe contractors cut corners on the supporting walls of the metro tunnel not only near the construction site near Waidmarkt, but also near the Rathaus and Heumarkt stations.

An additional 28 falsified records for underground metro construction at various sites across the city have been discovered, pointing towards organised crime, an investigation insider told daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger last week.

The building scandal spread this week to the nearby city of Düsseldorf, where experts have discovered falsified protocols and metal anchors that had not been installed properly at six different underground metro construction sites on the U-Bahn Wehrhahn line.

Düsseldorf city building department head Gregor Bonin told journalists there were clear indications that similar incidents were perpetrated by the same people as in Cologne – employees of a company called Bilfinger Berger – and those under suspicion have been suspended from their duties.

Because no safety danger has been detected in relation to these practices, construction of the U-Bahn line will continue as planned, he said.

Cities that may have worked with Bilfinger Berger on U-Bahn construction in the last 40 years have been asked to file reports to the investigating authorities.

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CRIME

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.

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