Germany weighs the human, economic and political damage caused by the flood

A view of the disaster area after heavy rainfall and flash floods that hit the western federal states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia on July 18, 2021 in Bad Münstereifel in Euskirchen.

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The clean-up work after extensive floods in Germany and beyond has only just begun, but the costs are already staggering – both for people and for the economy – and there are likely to be political ramifications.

Floods from heavy rains and overflowing rivers have devastated cities in western Germany and Belgium as well as in Austria, parts of the Netherlands, Switzerland and Luxembourg. The flood risk remains high for some regions after more rainfall on weekends.

In Germany alone, where the floods particularly affected the regions of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, more than 150 deaths have been reported, reported the news agency Deutsche Welle on Monday, and there are more deaths across Europe as well as hundreds of people who are still missing.

The extreme weather that led to the floods is attributed to climate change by politicians, while the German Weather Service stated on Twitter that “with global warming, extreme weather conditions will become more violent and probably more frequent”. The extreme weather in Germany is part of a trend, “even if you have to check in individual cases whether and what role climate change has already played”.

In Rhineland-Palatinate, two brothers cry in each other’s arms in front of their parents’ house, which has been destroyed by the flood.

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Officials have visited the affected areas and spoken to many who have lost their homes, property and, in some cases, loved ones. Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Rhineland-Palatinate at the weekend and described the situation as “surreal” and “terrifying”.

“Germany is a strong country,” Merkel said in a DW comment. “We will face this force of nature, in the short, but also in the medium and long term … We have to hurry, we have to accelerate the fight against climate change.”

Weigh the costs

Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who described the extent of the destruction as “immense”, said the newspaper Bild am Sonntag that at least € 300 million (£ 353.1 million) of emergency aid would be made available to help in the short term. He promised more billions for “a reconstruction program so that the destroyed houses, roads and bridges can be repaired quickly,” the newspaper said on Sunday.

In Germany, the allegations have already begun, with discussions about what was being done after early warning systems predicted days of extreme rainfall before the flood. The German Weather Service issued warnings in advance, but apparently did not react at the local level.

Meanwhile, meteorological experts are calling for a more uniform warning system in Europe to prevent further catastrophes caused by extreme weather.

Steve Bowen, managing director and head of Catstrophe Insight and Impact Forecasting at Aon, told CNBC Monday that the “unprecedented” extreme weather would fuel efforts to ensure the region is much better prepared in the future.

“This event was truly unprecedented in many ways. We have heard from many local weather authorities in Germany and other parts of Western and Central Europe that the amount of rainfall we saw in 24-48 hours was measured.” was beyond what many of them have ever absorbed. “

It is now crucial to identify areas at risk, Bowen said, and “in terms of infrastructure investments and early warning detection, make sure people are aware that these big events are on the way and what they need to do very quickly to search” . Security. “This is a” global problem, “he added.

Political Impact

Carsten Brzeski, Global Head of Macro at ING, assessed the economic and political effects of the floods with the federal election in September just two months away: “It will take some time to fully measure the full effects of the devastating floods.”

“Often the effects on the economy as a whole have no comparison with human suffering,” he said in a statement on Monday, but emphasized: “In Germany it would not be the first time that a natural disaster has turned into a political game changer.” . “

In Rhineland-Palatinate, food is available at the fire station for those affected by the flood.

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“In just two months until the federal elections, such natural disasters can have decisive and trend-setting effects, both in terms of the personal appearances of the top candidates and the hot topics of the last months of the election,” “he noted.

The flood could even affect the chancellor candidate of the ruling CDU after Armin Lachet (the Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia) was seen laughing in the background of a press conference about the German flood victims.

The Greens might be an obvious contender to capitalize on heightened voter concerns over climate change, but the party has had some bumpy months following a plagiarism scandal involving chairwoman Annalena Baerbock.

Carsten Brzeski added: “The Greens could indeed benefit from the visible consequences of climate change like no other party, but their role as the opposition party does not give nice television pictures at the scene of the crisis. The Greens will have to wait until the end of the year for the upcoming crisis management in the hope of a more fundamental discussion on how to tackle (the effects of) climate change. “


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