Germany pledges $13 billion fund for flood victims

BERLIN (AFP) - Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday that Germany would set up a fund worth up to eight billion euros (S$13 billion) to help victims of record floods, which forced thousands from their homes and left a path of destruction.

The accord came at a meeting between Ms Merkel, who has visited water-logged zones four times since the flooding began this month, and premiers of Germany's 16 states on the disaster's impact.

"The federal government and the states will each provide half of the national fund amounting to up to eight billion euros," Ms Merkel told reporters after the meeting.

She dismissed calls to introduce new taxes or special levies to raise money for the relief fund, but said it would require a supplementary budget for this year.

The Bundestag lower house of parliament is to sign off on the financing by July 5, the last session before the summer recess.

No official figure has yet been given for the cost of the damage in Germany from the floods which also deluged other central European countries. The death toll rose to 21 on Thursday after Romania reported two more dead from the flooding.

After the "worst-of-the-century" floods in 2002, a 6.5-billion-euro fund was set up.

Last week, Ms Merkel, who is campaigning for a third term in September elections, already pledged immediate aid of 100 million euros.

Mr Reiner Haseloff, premier of Saxony-Anhalt state, which has been badly hit by the flooding, had suggested in the daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung a temporary increase of a tax levied on all personal income and businesses to help reconstruct former East Germany.

Water levels continued to slowly fall in northern Germany on Thursday and dykes were holding, including in Lauenburg in Schleswig-Holstein and Hitzacker in Lower Saxony, both of which were visited by Ms Merkel on Wednesday.