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Merkel witnesses the ‘surreal’ devastation of the floods in Germany

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(Bloomberg) – Chancellor Angela Merkel toured areas of western Germany that suffered devastating floods in the past week, declaring the situation “terrifying” and promising aid for those affected.

Images of damage and associated human suffering can also change the political landscape in Germany. Merkel hinted at a twist to address the impact of climate change at a time when the Green Party, with its focus on the environment and sustainable development, is emerging as a political force. German voters will elect a new government in September.

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The chancellor’s visit also came a day after her heir apparent, Armin Laschet, was filmed on video laughing as Germany’s president made gloomy remarks about the flooding during a visit to the region, putting Merkel on edge. damage control.

“We came here today to make it clear that we have a real picture of a surreal situation,” Merkel said in remarks in Adenau, Rhineland-Palatinate. “We will face violence of nature in the short term, but in the long term, we want to push for more climate policies.”

The death toll from the country’s worst flooding in decades has surpassed 180 as rescue efforts continue, and the whereabouts of dozens of people are still unknown. Residents climbed rooftops and trees after houses flooded or collapsed. Thousands of homes were left without electricity or telephone connections.

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Laschet gaffe

In Schuld, another small town affected by the floods, the chancellor spoke directly with firefighters and members of rescue teams. He promised to return in August to verify reconstruction efforts.

Under fire from opposition politicians, Laschet, 60, apologized on Twitter for the incident on Saturday. Still, the implication of an empathy gap put a new twist on Germany’s election campaign at a time when it is trying to emerge from the shadow of Merkel, who has been Chancellor since 2005 and is the only leader that many voters over. young people have met.

Support for Germany’s Green Party was 18% in a weekly poll published on Saturday. If replicated in September, that would be enough to create a ruling majority with the Social Democrats and the business-friendly Free Democratic Party, according to Bild am Sonntag.

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Now led by Annalena Baerbock, 40, the Greens have become a more important force in German politics after receiving 8% of the vote in 2017. Climate change is likely to be a priority for many voters after the dramatic flood.

On Sunday, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz pledged emergency aid of at least 300 million euros ($ 354 million) to flood victims and a multi-million dollar rebuilding program for affected cities, in an interview on Bild am Sonntag.

Renewable energy

Much of the aid will be paid to the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia, although other parts of Germany have suffered damage. Parts of Bavaria were hit by flash floods on Sunday.

The damage was “immense” and the burden must be distributed fairly, said Scholz, who believes the disaster is a consequence of climate change.

Scholz criticized the slow development of renewables in Europe’s largest economy.

“Finally, we must move faster with the energy transition. It is irresponsible that the Union has so far expanded wind turbines and slowed down solar systems. When it comes to weather protection, your foot should be off the brakes. “

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