Germany approves $644m flood relief package

Debris being cleared on Tuesday after heavy flooding of the river Erft last week caused severe destruction in the village of Bad Muenstereifel, Germany.
Debris being cleared on Tuesday after heavy flooding of the river Erft last week caused severe destruction in the village of Bad Muenstereifel, Germany.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BERLIN • Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet approved a €400 million (S$644 million) flood relief package to help devastated regions in western Germany.

The federal government will make half the funds available, with the rest coming from the hard-hit states, including North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said yesterday.

The funds will be financed from the current budget, and the money will be made available to those affected as quickly as possible.

"We can do this; we have the conditions," Mr Scholz said in Berlin. "It can move forward right away."

Mr Scholz said more funds can be made available if needed, adding that a previous flood had cost around €6 billion.

The flooding has shown initial signs of shaking up the campaign to lead Europe's largest economy.

Dr Merkel's Christian Democratic-led bloc saw its lead over the Greens narrow to nine percentage points after the group's backing fell two points to 28 per cent in a Forsa poll, the first to partially take in the impact of last week's floods.

Mr Armin Laschet, the North Rhine-Westphalia state premier and the conservatives' candidate, was pilloried over the weekend for laughing in the background as German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier solemnly offered condolences to the flood victims.

"Even after (Laschet's) appearances in areas affected by the flood, he remains largely devoid of contour and colour," said Mr Manfred Gullner, head of the Forsa polling institute. "The candidate's weakness has led to a renewed decline in sympathy for his party."

After touring a flood-ravaged town near Bonn with Mr Laschet, Dr Merkel promised prompt financial aid for rebuilding efforts.

At least 170 people died in last week's floods in Germany, with hundreds more still missing.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2021, with the headline 'Germany approves $644m flood relief package'. Subscribe