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German Cabinet approves some $472 million in first flood aid

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BERLIN: Germany’s cabinet on Wednesday approved an immediate aid package of roughly 400 million euros ($ 472 million) for flood victims and vowed to quickly begin rebuilding devastated areas, a task whose cost is expected to rise. to billions.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the package, half funded by Chancellor Angela MerkelFederal government and half of Germany’s state governments, to help people cope with the immediate aftermath of last week’s floods would increase if more money is needed.
“We will do whatever it takes to help everyone as quickly as possible,” Scholz said.
At least 171 people died in Germany, more than half of them in Ahrweiler county, near Bonn. when small rivers rose rapidly in raging torrents on Wednesday and Thursday after persistent downpours.
Another 31 died in neighboring Belgium, bringing the death toll in both countries to 202.
The floods also destroyed or severely damaged homes, businesses, and infrastructure. Authorities in the affected states are responsible for the details of who receives how much aid and how, but Scholz said they have indicated that it will be “a very non-bureaucratic process” that does not involve tests of resources.
“It is necessary to send a quick message that there is a future, that we are taking care of it together, that this is an issue in which we, as the whole country, must help,” he added.
Heiko Lemke said her family was not insured for damages caused when the Ahr River flooded the entire ground floor of their duplex house in the city of Sinzig.
So far no one has told the Lemkes where to apply for government assistance.
“And right now I really don’t have time to look for it,” the 47-year-old said wearily, as helpers cleared the house’s mud-covered debris.
Germany has recent experience with major floods that affected swaths of the country, particularly the east, in 2002 and 2013. They caused extensive and costly damage. However, the death toll was particularly high in last week’s floods, which were the worst on record in the affected areas.
Scholz said government aid for reconstruction after the 2013 floods has totaled about 6 billion euros ($ 7 billion) so far and that more help may be needed this time.
“There is nothing we should delay,” he told reporters in Berlin. “The promise we want to make now is that this help with the reconstruction can start immediately, so that everything can be done to restore the infrastructure, the damaged houses, the damaged schools, the hospitals, put everything in order there it destroyed”.
Inside Minister Horst Seehofer He said he expects a rough assessment of the damage by the end of the month, after which federal officials and state governors will meet to discuss the way forward.
He and Scholz noted that people can expect reconstruction help, whether or not they are insured for “elementary damage” from events such as floods, which many in Germany are not, although insurance is likely to be taken into account in determining the details. . Merkel has expressed skepticism about the mandatory nature of such insurance, arguing that it could produce unaffordable premiums, but some other German officials defend it.
Seehofer said there will have to be “a broad debate on safeguards systems” for the future as natural disasters are likely to become more frequent and more destructive.
Scholz agreed, adding: “In terms of what is happening now, we have to help. I would argue against being cynical and heartless. This is a huge disaster, we have to help and that has to be the first any principle.” . The director of an organization representing German insurance companies said he expects insured damages to total 4 billion to 5 billion euros ($ 4.7 billion to 5.9 billion) in the two German states that suffered the worst damage.
It will likely exceed the € 4.65 billion damage caused by floods in 2002 that submerged parts of Dresden and other areas of eastern Germany. German Insurance Association CEO Joerg Asmussen said. That, he added, makes what happened last week “one of the most devastating storms of the recent past.”
Last week’s floods also affected the southern Netherlands in the Limburg province, although there were no casualties there. Valkenburg Mayor Daan Prevoo said some 700 houses in the city were damaged so badly that their owners will have to find temporary accommodation while they are being repaired.
He estimated the cost of damage to homes and businesses in Valkenburg to be around 400 million euros ($ 472 million).





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