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Merkel shocked by 'surreal' devastation
German Chancellor Angela Merkel surveyed what she called a “surreal, ghostly” scene in a devastated village on Sunday, pledging quick financial aid and a redoubled political focus on curbing climate change as the death toll from floods in Western Europe climbed above 180.
Merkel toured Schuld, a village on a tight curve of the Ahr River in western Germany where many buildings were damaged or destroyed by rapidly rising floodwaters Wednesday night, according to AP News.
|German Chancellor Angela Merkel, rear third left, and the Governor of the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, Malu Dreyer, rear fifth left, are seen on a bridge in Schuld, western Germany, Sunday, July 18, 2021. Photo: AP|
Although the mayor of Schuld said no one was killed or injured there, many other places weren’t so lucky. The death toll in the Ahrweiler area, where Schuld is located, stood at 112. Authorities said people are still missing and they fear the toll may still rise.
In neighboring North Rhine-Westphalia state, Germany’s most populous, 46 people were killed, including four firefighters. Belgium confirmed 31 deaths, Associated Press reported.
Merkel said she came away from Schuld, still partly strewn with rubble and mud in bright sunshine, with “a real picture of, I must say, the surreal, ghostly situation.”
|Residents are getting on with the clean-up. Photo: Reuters|
“It is shocking — I would almost say that the German language barely has words for the devastation that has been wreaked,” she said at a news conference in a nearby town.
Merkel said authorities will work to “set the world right again in this beautiful region, step by step,” and her Cabinet will approve an immediate and medium-term financial aid program on Wednesday.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that more than 300 million euros ($354 million) will be needed immediately. And he said officials must set up a longer-term rebuilding program which, from experience with previous flooding, will be in the billions of euros.
|Residents are seen between debris in Marienthal, western Germany, Sunday, July 18, 2021. Photo: AP|
“Thankfully, Germany is a country that can manage this financially,” said Merkel, who is stepping down as chancellor following an election in September. “Germany is a strong country and we will stand up to this force of nature in the short term — but also in the medium and long term, through policy that pays more regard to nature and the climate than we did in recent years. That will be necessary too.”
Europe flood death toll tops 160
Rescue workers labored to deal with damage laid bare by receding water Saturday as the death toll from disastrous flooding in Western Europe rose above 160 and thoughts turned to the lengthy job of rebuilding communities devastated in minutes.
The death toll in western Germany’s Rhineland-Palatinate state, home to the badly hit Ahrweiler county, rose to 98. Another 43 people were confirmed dead in neighboring North Rhine-Westphalia state. Belgium’s national crisis center said the country’s confirmed death toll rose to 27.
Days of heavy rain turned normally minor rivers and streets into raging torrents this week and caused the disastrous flooding that swept away cars, engulfed homes and trapped residents.
Immediately after the floods hit on Wednesday and Thursday, German authorities listed large numbers of people as missing — something apparently caused in large part by confusion, multiple reporting and communications difficulties in the affected areas, some of which lacked electricity and telephone service.
By Saturday, authorities still feared finding more people dead, but said numbers unaccounted for had dropped constantly, without offering specific figures. In Belgium, 103 people were listed as missing Saturday, but the crisis center said lost or uncharged cellphones and people taken to hospitals without identification who hadn’t had an opportunity to contact relatives were believed to be factors in the tally.
Meanwhile, the receding floodwaters eased access across much of the affected regions and revealed the extent of the damage.
|Police officers search in the rubble for possible victims, at a bridge over the River Ahr, in Altenahr, western Germany, Sunday, July 18, 2021. Photo: AP|
“A lot of people have lost everything they spent their lives building up — their possessions, their home, the roof over their heads,” German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after meeting rescue workers and others in the town of Erftstadt.
Survivors recall escape, ponder future after Europe’s floods
In Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, in western Germany, Andreas Wachtveitel spent Saturday clearing debris out of his apartment building. The 39-year-old’s home and office were submerged and badly damaged, so he doesn’t know what he’ll do next.
“This was the worst thing that’s ever happened to me,” said Wachtveitel, who was covered in mud. “Thank God everybody in our house is still alive, but it was close.”
|Wiel de Bie, 75, stands outside his flooded home in the town of Brommelen, Netherlands, Saturday, July 17, 2021. Photo: AP|
The sounds of the water rushing into his building’s lower floors and of nearby screaming haunt him, he said.
“We heard screams from the other side,” Wachtveitel said. “There’s a clinic and the patients were trapped.”
Franco Romanelli, who owns the Pizzeria Roma in the same town, stood in front of the restaurant that was his livelihood as workers cleared ruined furniture.
“It took such a long time to build the restaurant to get it where it is,” he said. “And now after the pandemic, this is catastrophic.”
“We are not talking about a few thousand euros” to repair the damage, he said. “I made a rough calculation; we are talking about a few hundred thousand euros to rebuild the place.”
|A view of wedding photos floating in water in a flooded basement of a home, in the town of Brommelen, Netherlands, Saturday, July 17, 2021. Photo: AP|
Romanelli, originally from the Abruzzo region of Italy, came to Ahrweiler in 1979 when he was 15 years old. He said the extent of the damage in his adopted home is devastating.
In the Netherlands, thousands of people who evacuated threatened areas on Thursday and Friday started to return home to survey the damage on Saturday.
In Brommelen, in the southern Netherlands, Wiel de Bie found his basement completely flooded. De Bie, 75, had carefully collected decades’ worth of old magazines, photos and important documents. All of them were in his basement; what hasn’t disappeared entirely is waterlogged and destroyed.
“Apart from the emotional value, which I find more important, magazines, radio bulletins from 1960 until 1997 all vanished,” he said, picking up a dripping copy of a magazine from 1924 as he pumped water out of the basement.
Down the street, the Kant family’s car still was partially underwater. A single rubber boot floated in their flooded garden. Professor Ijmert Kant, 62, said he was grateful for their safety. Still, he added, the task of cleaning up the debris and repairing their home was daunting.
Vietnam sends sympathy to EU coutries' counterparts over deadly floods
President Nguyen Xuan Phuc sent a telegram of sharing to German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh sent regard for Germany people to Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on July 18 sent his sympathy to his Belgian counterpart Alexander De Croo over recent downpours and floods that caused huge human and property damage, according to VNA.
Record rainfalls caused rivers in Belgium to burst their banks, killing dozens of residents.
|Overseas Vietnamese send aid package to flood-stricken locality in homeland |
The financial support worth over 12,970 USD was handed over to Phu Yen authorities in early May to help the province overcome flood damages.
|UNFPA presents aid to older people in floods-affected three provinces |
In response to the Vietnam’s devastating floods, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Vietnam partnered with young people to support older persons.
|74-year-old man helps Saigonese cope with floods by clearing canals, with video |
During heavy rains and high tides, a 74-year-old man in HCM City often picks up trash and clears sewer pipes. One day, when trying to ...