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ANGELA MERKEL

UPDATE: Germany approves €400 million relief package for flood-hit regions and survivors

Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet approved a huge emergency aid package Wednesday for flood-stricken regions of Germany and said billions would be needed to rebuild homes, businesses and vital infrastructure.

UPDATE: Germany approves €400 million relief package for flood-hit regions and survivors
Chancellor Angela Merkel meeting affected residents in Bad Muenstereifel on Tuesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AFP Pool | Christof Stache

A week into the region’s worst flooding disaster in living memory, which has killed at least 174 people in Germany, and 201 in total in Europe, the conservatives (CDU/CSU) and Social Democrats’ “grand coalition” government unblocked some €400 million ($470 million) in immediate relief.

Half will come from the federal government of Europe’s top economy and the rest from the 16 regional states, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said.

“We will make sure that life can go on,” Scholz told reporters in Berlin.

He said the coming months would bring a “billions-strong reconstruction programme to clear the devastation and restore infrastructure” including roads, bridges and railways.

“We will rebuild – rebuild businesses, rebuild factories, rebuild buildings.”

Power and drinking water supplies were compromised in many areas while mobile communication networks were still down.

The damage caused by the floods is likely to cost the insurance industry up to five billion euros ($5.9 billion), the GDV insurance industry association said, calling the disaster “one of the most devastating storms in recent history”.

However, the real cost is likely to be much higher as less than half of Germans in the affected states are insured against heavy rain and floods, the association said.

Merkel told reporters on a visit to the badly hit medieval town of Bad Muenstereifel on Tuesday that Berlin would come through to help in the short and long term.

“This was flooding that surpassed our imagination when you see the destruction it wrought,” Merkel told reporters after touring what Bild newspaper called the “apocalyptic” wreckage of the 17,000-strong community in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state.

She said ministers would clear the way for emergency assistance for citizens who had suffered losses and do everything in their power “so that the money is with people fast”.

“I hope it will be a matter of days,” she said, noting that she had met local victims “left with nothing but the clothes on their backs”.

The initial amount is reportedly expected to be around €400 million ($470 million).

‘Months if not years’

Merkel was joined on the visit by NRW premier Armin Laschet, head of her Christian Democratic Union and the frontrunner in the race to succeed her as chancellor after a general election on September 26th.

Laschet called for the rescue funds to reach victims “unbureaucratically and as fast as possible”, pledging to double Berlin’s assistance with a cash injection from his own state budget.

He warned it could take “months if not years to rebuild”.

READ ALSO: Rebuilding Germany’s flood-ravaged areas ‘will take years’

A total of 125 people are now confirmed to have died in the flooding in Rhineland-Palatinate state, with at least 48 victims in NRW and one in Bavaria.

At least 31 people also died in Belgium, and later torrential rain caused havoc in southern Germany and several other neighbouring countries.

“We are still looking for missing people as we clear roads and pump out cellars,” the vice president of Germany’s THW civil protection agency, Sabine Lackner, told media group Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.

“However by now it is unfortunately very likely that we will only be able to recover victims, not rescue them.”

Scholz, the chancellor candidate for the Social Democrats, said Germany would have to prepare for increasingly frequent natural disasters triggered by climate change.

“We’ll manage it together,” he told the daily Rheinische Post.

“What’s crucial for me is that there are consequences from what’s happened,” including plans to make changes to Germany’s disaster prevention systems as well as climate protection measures, he said.

READ ALSO: Why Germany faces tough questions over its disaster response

Climate warning

Annalena Baerbock, the Greens’ flag bearer for the election, called for a more coordinated approach to warning citizens while stressing the country must prepare better for extreme weather events due to global warming.

“Germany has been fortunate for decades in suffering relatively few natural catastrophes,” she told Der Spiegel magazine.

“But that’s meant that the disaster protection measures haven’t been sufficiently developed, although experts have been warning for years about climate-driven extreme weather events.”

Merkel, who is retiring this year after 16 years in power, on Tuesday defended Germany’s preparations for deadly disasters, saying even experts had been taken by surprise by the sheer brutal force and speed of last week’s rains, which left many stricken towns looking like war zones.

“Now we’ve got to look at what worked and what didn’t work, without forgetting that this was flooding as we haven’t seen in a long, long time,” she said.

By Deborah COLE

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WEATHER

Will Germany see more snow this winter?

Over the weekend, large parts of Germany saw early snowfall, but will it continue throughout the winter?

Will Germany see more snow this winter?

Many parts of Germany experienced an early white Christmas over the weekend, as snow fell from Berlin to the Baltic Sea. Hesse also saw at least the first swirl of snowflakes and there was light snow in the Siegerland and the Hochsauerland districts of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Some areas of the country were hit particularly hard by the snow – a few centimetres of snow fell in Kassel, while large parts of Bavaria experienced heavy snowfall on Saturday.

READ ALSO: Surviving winter: 8 tips for enjoying the cold like a true German

There were also numerous accidents on icy roads in North Rhine-Westphalia, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Schleswig-Holstein and Bavaria. 

Will there be more snowfall this week?

Snowfall is expected at the beginning of the week in some areas in Thuringia and Saxony, while further south, there is likely to be snowfall only at high altitudes – such as in the Bavarian Alps.

Snow lies on the beach in Zingst, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Georg Moritz

In the coming days, temperatures will rise again and the weather will become milder. According to the German Weather Service (DWD) temperatures will hover between 5C and 12C for most of the country, while only the northeast and east see maximum temperatures of 0C to 4C.

Will there be more snow this winter?

2022 has already broken weather records in Germany – the period from January to the end of October was the warmest since weather records began almost 140 years ago.

READ ALSO: ‘A glimpse into our climate future’: Germany logs warmest October on record

Various weather models have already simulated the coming winter in Europe and Germany and provide estimations on how much warmer the coming winter is likely to be than from the years 1961 to 1990.

The models created by NASA, DWD, and the Climate Forecast System all agree that trend of rising temperatures will probably continue over the winter. Between December and February, it’s expected that the mercury will be between 1C and 3C higher than it was between 1961 and 1990. 

Meteorologist Corinna Borau from wetter.com told the Frankfurter Rundschau that she thinks that it’s extremely unlikely that there will be further snowfall in December in Germany.

“If the month looks rather dry and too mild overall, then we can’t expect large amounts of snow” Borau said. 

According to Borau, January is unlikely to be a “snow bomb” either, though it will still “feel like winter” and snow is only expected to fall sporadically. In February, however, the chances of snowfall are higher than in previous months.

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