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German chancellor candidate Laschet sparks anger with flood zone laughter

German chancellor candidate Armin Laschet, the frontrunner in the race to succeed Angela Merkel, sparked outrage Saturday after he was caught on camera laughing during a visit to a flood-ravaged town.

German chancellor candidate Laschet sparks anger with flood zone laughter
North Rhine-Westphalia state premier Armin Laschet in Erftstadt on Saturday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Oliver Berg

The footage shows Laschet chatting and joking with several people in the background while President Frank-Walter Steinmeier gives a statement to public television expressing sympathy for flood victims in the hard-hit town of Erftstadt.

At one point in the widely shared clip, Laschet bursts out laughing for several seconds.

“Laschet laughs while the country cries,” the best-selling Bild daily said on its website.

Commentators and politicians were quick to condemn Laschet on social media.

READ ALSO: More than 140 dead in German flood disaster 

“I’m speechless,” tweeted Lars Klingbeil, secretary general of the centre-left Social Democrats, who govern together with Merkel and Laschet’s
conservative CDU/CSU bloc.

“This is all apparently a big joke to (Laschet),” wrote Maximilian Reimers from the far-left Die Linke opposition party. “How could he be a chancellor?”

There was no immediate comment from Laschet’s spokespeople contacted by AFP.

The controversy comes just days after Laschet was widely panned for admonishing a female reporter and calling her “young lady” during a tense back and forth about the link between the deadly floods and climate change.

“Excuse me, young lady, you don’t change policies just because of one day like this,” said Laschet, who is the premier of North-Rhine Westphalia state
(NRW), one of the two German regions hit hardest by the worst flooding in living memory.

Germany has counted more than 140 lives lost since Wednesday, while neighbouring Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands have also been affected by the heavy storms.

Erftstadt in NRW has seen some of the worst devastation after the extreme rainfall triggered a landslide in the town, destroying several houses and streets.

“I grew up in Erftstadt,” tweeted Olav Waschkies. “The behaviour of our state premier is unacceptable and unforgivable.”

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WEATHER

What temperatures can we expect in Germany this week?

Parts of Germany will see another heatwave this week as temperatures soar.

What temperatures can we expect in Germany this week?

The German Weather Service (DWD) has predicted that the mercury will climb in some regions of to around 34C this week. 

“After low pressure ‘Karin’ gave parts of Germany rain, sometimes in large quantities, high pressure ‘Piet’ is now back in pole position,” said meteorologist Lars Kirchhübel of the DWD.

This high pressure zone will dominate the weather in large parts of western and central Europe over the coming days, the weather expert said, adding that it will reach Germany too. 

On Monday temperatures remained fairly cool across the country after a weekend of showers, but they are set to climb over the course of the week, particularly on Wednesday and Thursday. Forecasters predict it could reach 32C in Stuttgart and 33C in Cologne on Thursday. Locally, temperatures could reach 34C. 

However, from the Oder and Neisse rivers to the Erzgebirge mountains and southeast Bavaria, denser clouds and some showers are to be expected. This is due to a high-level low pressure system over the Balkan region, according to forecasters. Short showers are also possible in the Black Forest.

“In most of the rest of the country, high ‘Piet’ will be able to hold its ground,” said Kirchhübel.

READ ALSO: Heavy rain in Bavaria swells rivers, but flooding avoided

At the end of the week, thunderstorms are forecast but temperatures are expected to remain high. 

August in Germany ‘too dry’

According to the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, August as a whole – apart from a few areas in eastern Germany – will be too dry compared to the multi-year average.

The Black Forest, the High Rhine and the Allgäu to the Bavarian Forest, however, are not expected to have any major problems due to the high rainfall of the past few days.

“Looking at Rhineland-Palatinate, the southern half of Hesse, the western half of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Franconia shows a different picture,” said Kirchhübel. In the last 30 days, only about 10 percent of the usual level of precipitation fell in some places.

“At some stations, no precipitation at all has been measured in August,” added Kirchhübel, referencing Würzburg as an example.

Rainfall at the weekend caused the water in the Rhine river to rise slightly. In Emmerich, the water level reached a positive value again after the historic low of the past few days: in the morning, it showed three centimetres – an increase of six centimetres compared to the previous day.

The water level also rose by several centimetres at the other measuring points in North Rhine-Westphalia: in Cologne, the level rose to 80cm and in Düsseldorf to 38cm.

READ ALSO: Damaged freighter blocks traffic at drought-hit Rhine

Despite this encouraging trend, the Waterways and Shipping Authority said it did not expect a huge improvement in water levels in the foreseeable future due to more hot weather coming.

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