Some 186 people lost their lives in severe floods that pummelled western Germany over two days in mid-July, raising questions about whether enough was done to warn residents ahead of time.
Prosecutors said they were looking at whether there were grounds to launch investigations on “negligent homicide and negligent bodily harm as the result of possibly failed or delayed warnings or evacuations of the population”.
Among the evidence that they are considering are police reports on the deaths of 12 people in a care facility in the western town of Sinzig.
The disabled residents lived in the care home, Lebenshilfehaus. They were asleep when the flash floods happened in the early hours of July 15th when the river Ahr broke its banks. There were not evacuated in time and sadly drowned.
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Some 26 people are still missing after torrents of water ripped through entire towns and villages, destroying bridges, roads, railways and swathes of housing in the region’s worst flooding disaster in living memory.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that local authorities in Ahrweiler had been warned about the impending flood by the state’s environmental office already in the afternoon of July 14.
At 9:30pm, the authorities were informed that the gauge would hit almost seven metres, but they declared a disaster only 90 minutes later, ordering a partial evacuation of the region.
Heinz Wolschendorf, who was in charge of rescue services in the worst-hit region of Ahrtal in Rhineland-Palatinate state, on Monday defended the
“We did everything that was possible to support the population and carry out the rescue operations,” he said.
As The Local has been reporting, many people have questioned the handling of the situation.
- Germany knew its warning system wasn’t good enough – why wasn’t it improved?
- Why weren’t residents of German flood zones all warned via text?
- Why Germany faces tough questions over its disaster response
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer last week said Germany will move to a system of issuing these mobile phone text alerts in future.
There have also been questions over who the responsibility lies with in the event of crisis situations.
The Interior Ministry said it is down to states and districts to make sure the message gets through to people on the ground.
But some say the federal government needs to step in sooner to coordinate with communities on evacuating people.