Germany approves $644m relief package for flood recovery

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

BERLIN (BLOOMBERG) - 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 on Wednesday (July 21).

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

"We can do this. We have the conditions," Mr Scholz said at a press conference in Berlin. "It can move forward right away."

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

Mrs Merkel's Christian Democratic-led bloc saw its lead over the Greens narrow to 9 percentage points after the group's backing fell two points to 28 per cent in a Forsa poll for RTL-ntv - the first to partially take in the impact of last week's flooding.

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

"Even after his appearances in the areas affected by the flood disaster, he remains largely devoid of contour and colour," Mr Manfred Gullner, head of the Forsa polling institute, said in an e-mail. "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, Mrs Merkel promised prompt financial support for rebuilding efforts. Mr Laschet - still the clear front runner ahead of the Greens' Annalena Baerbock and SPD's Scholz - said his state would double the amount.

While the catastrophe put climate change at the top of the public agenda, the Greens have so far failed to capitalise, with support steady at 19 per cent. The Social Democrats picked up one point to 16 per cent.

For the poll, Forsa surveyed 2,503 people between July 13 and July 19, with a margin of error of 2.5 points. The floods started on July 14.

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