German Prime Minister Angela Merkel on Sunday (18) visited regions affected by catastrophic flooding in recent days and pledged immediate financial assistance to affected families. The total death toll in Germany and Belgium, the two most affected countries, has risen to 184, according to the latest survey.
“It’s terrifying,” Merkel told residents of Adenau, a city in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. “The German language can hardly describe the devastation that has taken place.”
The German leader also said governments must improve and accelerate their efforts to deal with the impact of climate change. This week, the European Union presented a new plan to try to reduce the pollution generated by the bloc and thus try to contain global warming.
According to specialists interviewed by Folha, the increase in global temperatures generates an accumulation of energy in the atmosphere which dissipates through extreme weather events, which tend to become more and more powerful and frequent.
This Sunday, the district of Berchtesgadener Land, in Bavaria, in the south of the country, was hit by new floods which left at least one death. Roads turned into rivers, vehicles washed away, and thick mud buried parts of the territory bordering Austria.
Hundreds of rescuers are looking for survivors. “We were not prepared for this,” said local leader Bernhard Kern, adding that the situation had “drastically” deteriorated on Saturday evening, so emergency services had little time to act. .
The district of Ahrweiler, south of the city of Cologne, has at least 110 dead. Police said it is likely that more bodies will be found in the area as the floodwaters recede in the coming days and hours.
The flooding, caused in part by the overflowing of several European rivers, began last Wednesday (14). Besides Rhineland-Palatinate, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia has been the hardest hit.
Entire communities were left without electricity, clean water and no means of communication, causing the number of missing people to skyrocket, with authorities still unable to distinguish the number of people who may be among the dead or simply inaccessible.
The German government will prepare an emergency aid plan for victims worth more than 300 million euros (1.8 billion BRL). Billions more must be allocated to repair damaged infrastructure such as destroyed buildings, streets and bridges.
“The damage is enormous, and it is clear: those who have lost their business, their house, cannot cope with these losses alone,” Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.
According to another Minister of the Merkel government, Peter Altmair, of the Economy, the ministry is also studying a payment of ten thousand euros (R $ 60,400) to companies affected by the floods and the coronavirus pandemic.
In Belgium, the government declared national mourning next Tuesday (20). The country has at least 27 deaths due to the rains. Water levels fell on Sunday, allowing clean-up and rescue operations to proceed.
Soldiers were sent to the town of Pepinster, where at least ten buildings collapsed, in search of other victims. Tens of thousands of people are without electricity and the Belgian authorities say that the supply of drinking water is also a major concern.
In the Netherlands, emergency services have reported that the situation is slightly more stable in the southern part of the province of Limburg, where tens of thousands of residents have been forced to flee their homes.
However, the northern region of the province remains on high alert. According to local leaders, there are still tensions in monitoring the dikes due to the risk of dam failure. In South Limburg, the infrastructure of roads and bridges affected by the floods is also a cause for concern. The damage in Holland, until this Sunday, is only material. There is no record of deaths or missing persons in the country.
In Hallein, Austria, the Kothbach River overflowed on Saturday night and flooded the city center, but there was no human loss. In the province of Salzburg, forecasts of additional rains for this Sunday put authorities on alert and, in West Tyrol, water levels in some areas have broken records of the past 30 years.
This Sunday, Pope Francis, in his first public appearance since leaving hospital after an operation, expressed his solidarity with those affected by the catastrophic floods in Europe. “May the Lord welcome the dead and comfort their loved ones, and may he support the efforts of all who help those who have suffered serious harm,” said the pontiff.