Germany, which has been ravaged by floods, has approved a major relief package.
Merkel’s cabinet authorized a massive emergency aid package for flood-stricken areas of Germany on Wednesday, saying billions would be required to repair homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure.
The right-left “grand coalition” government unlocked roughly 400 million euros ($470 million) in emergency help just a week after the region’s greatest flooding disaster in living memory, which has killed at least 170 people in Germany and 201 people in total across Europe.
The federal government of Europe’s largest economy will contribute half, with the remaining funds coming from the 16 regional governments, according to Finance Minister Olaf Scholz.
Scholz told reporters in Berlin, “We will make sure that life can go on.”
He predicted that in the next months, a “billions-of-dollar rehabilitation program” will be launched to clear the destruction and restore infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and trains.
“We will reconstruct — enterprises, factories, and buildings,” says the president.
Merkel promised on Tuesday during a visit to the heavily damaged medieval village of Bad Muenstereifel that Berlin would aid in the short and long term.
After witnessing the “apocalyptic” devastation of the 17,000-strong hamlet in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Merkel told reporters, “This was flooding that exceeded our imagination when you see the destruction it wrought.”
She stated that her government would do all possible “to ensure that the money reaches the people quickly.”
“I hope it will just take a few days,” she said, adding that she had met local victims who had been left “with nothing except the clothing on their backs.”
The regional government of Belgium’s hard-hit Wallonia committed a total of two billion euros in repair help on Wednesday, citing “extraordinary” flood damage.
Merkel was accompanied on the trip by NRW premier Armin Laschet, the leader of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and the frontrunner in the race to succeed her as chancellor following the September 26 federal election.
Laschet demanded that the aid reach victims “unbureaucratically and as quickly as possible,” promising to increase Berlin’s aid with a cash injection from his own state budget.
He cautioned that rebuilding might take “months, if not years.”
Scholz, the Social Democrats’ candidate for chancellor, said Germany would have to prepare for more regular natural disasters as a result of climate change.
A total of 121 persons have been confirmed dead as a result of the flooding in Rhineland-Palatinate, with at least 48 casualties in the state of NRW and one in the state of Bavaria.
In Belgium, at least 31 individuals died, with a total of 53. Brief News from Washington Newsday.