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WEATHER

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

Tornado in western Germany injures dozens

Almost 40 people were injured, several seriously, on Friday in a suspected tornado which hit the western German city of Paderborn, the police and fire brigade said.

Tornado in western Germany injures dozens

A police spokesman said the tornado also caused significant damage in the city in the North Rhine-Westphalia state, following abnormally high temperatures for the time of year.

The city’s fire department said on Twitter that “38 injured people, including some gravely” had been taken to hospital. The police said one person was fighting for their life.

Paderborn, fire service added, “Please do not drive to Paderborn on your own without prior agreement of help. If necessary, further units of the fire brigade will be alerted and called in.”

In neighbouring Rhineland-Palatinate state, a 38-year-old man died after he was electrocuted when he entered his flooded basement and fell on his head, the police in the city of Koblenz said.

Railway travel was disrupted in the west of the country, as police called on people to remain indoors.

In Paderborn, police estimated the damage caused by the tornado at “several million” euros.

The spokesman reported “roofs torn off, windows shattered and numerous trees uprooted throughout the city”.

View of destroyed cars on a street. A tornado caused massive damage in Paderborn and Lippstadt on Friday 20th May 2022.

View of destroyed cars on a street after a tornado caused massive damage in Paderborn and Lippstadt on Friday 20th May 2022. Photo: Picture Alliance/Dpa/Friso Gentsch
 

Images posted on social media showed the tornado column progressing towards homes, sweeping away trees and building sections. Other pictures from the wider region showed cars that had been upturned.

The town of Lippstadt, about 30 kilometres away (18 miles), was also probably hit by a tornado, a fire department spokesperson said, though no injuries had been recorded. The steeple of the church in Lippstadt had been destroyed by the high winds.

People stand in front of the St. Clemens Catholic Church in Hellinghausen near Lippstadt, the top of which was destroyed. A suspected tornado caused massive damage in Lippstadt on Friday 21st May 2022. Photo: Picture alliance/DPA/Friso Gentsch
 

German meteorological services had put out a storm warning for Friday and predicted gales of up to 130 km/h (80 miles/h) in some places.

The bad weather first hit the west of the country and was set to travel eastwards.
  

 
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