Deadly floods in Germany: Political controversy over early warning system errors

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Violent political controversy over possible mistakes or omissions in Germany’s early warning mechanism has sparked deadly floods in the country that have claimed the lives of at least 165 people, while 170 people continue to be ignored.

The opposition has been targeted by Federal Office for Civil Protection (BBC) and its political chief, Home Secretary Horst Seehofer. The Greens, the Liberal Party (FDP) and the Left have been sharply critical, demanding his resignation. The minister accused them of “cheap election rhetoric”.

“The disaster control system in Germany is well established. “But both the federal government and the state authorities, municipalities and communities need to think together what lessons can be learned from crisis management,” said Zeehofer, who visited the affected areas in North Rhine-Westphalia today. – Westphalia and in Rhineland – Palatinate and stressed that “it would be wrong to insist on arrogance that there is nothing that can be improved.”

“It is not possible for everything to work 100%,” admitted North Rhine-Westphalia Interior Minister Herbert Reil, while assuring that “there were no major problems” with the system, but that it was “increasingly difficult to predict”. no one exactly where the most water will be collected “.

“The point is not to take responsibility, but to see how we can improve for the future,” said Economy Minister Peter Altmeier, noting that due to the summer, the rains found citizens unprepared. “That is why we should discuss whether we have sufficient prevention and ability to recognize the developments that will come,” he added, referring to the debate on whether the Meteorological Service could have predicted the intensity and duration of the weather earlier. .

“The German Weather Service (DWD) models have been giving clear indications since last Monday, warning of up to 200 liters per square meter,” said the head of state in western Germany on Wednesday night from Thursday to Thursday. DWD Prediction Center Franz-Josef Mole. “Earlier it really did not happen”, he says characteristically and adds that his Service “not only warned of a lot of rain, but also of continuous rain”.

But could one predict how badly the storms would hit those areas? “Only in the event that the rainfall would be so intense and continuous that one could not be protected anyway,” Mole told Der Spiegel. “Overall, the air mass is warmer than “Decades ago, even warmer air could absorb more moisture – and when hot air comes from the Mediterranean in weather like this, it rains more.”

BBK chief Armin Schuster told ZDF that “federal-level warning infrastructure was working” and added that the Meteorological Service had “warned relatively well”, but we often do not know even half an hour before the bad weather hit or how severely. He noted that about 150 warning messages were sent through the special applications. “Where the special sirens worked and where not, he can not say for sure,” said Mr. Souster, responding to criticism that many sirens were out of order.

The political controversy also focuses on whether Germany’s decentralized administration can finally meet extreme needs like last week in the west of the country. Green Chancellor candidate Alena Berbock and the FDP have called for a strengthening of the federal state’s civil protection powers in the future. “The wrong way,” says Horst Seehofer. His spokesman even said today that the process of implementation of the already planned reform of the disaster control system should be accelerated, while the responsibilities and resources of the BBK Service should be able to be used in peacetime as well.

Deputy government spokeswoman Martina Fitz, for her part, said that, legally, civil protection in Germany is not the responsibility of one, but responsibilities are shared between the federation, the states and the communities. The federal government, he said, provides extensive “warning” infrastructure, which he said operated during the disaster and contributed significantly to protecting the population. “Experience, however, has shown that we need to do more here and improve,” said Fitz, referring to the Home Office plan, which was presented in March and envisages a new control center at BBK, with the co-operation of all federal and state bodies. . “The German civil protection and disaster protection structure is right and has been in place for decades. We must not change it. “Centralism does not improve anything on this issue,” said Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.

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