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The pioneer to succeed Merkel apologizes for joking after Germany suffered new floods | Germany

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More flash floods have devastated cities in Austria, Bavaria and eastern Germany as the favorite to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel was forced to apologize after seemingly disregarding a catastrophic situation that has taken its toll. the lives of more than 150 people.

The alpine district of Berchtesgadener Land declared a state of emergency on Saturday night after heavy rains caused street flooding and landslides, leaving at least one person dead.

Across the border in Austria, a stream flooded with rainwater flooded the historic city center of Hallein, south of Salzburg, trapping residents in their buildings, overturning cars and flooding ground-floor shops. The city’s mayor, Alexander Stangassinger, told ORF broadcaster that the floods had caused millions of euros in damage.

Water flows over a square in front of a house in Bischofswiesen, Germany, on Saturday. Photographer: Kilian Pfeiffer / AP

Several cities in the eastern German mountainous region of Saxon Switzerland, southeast of Dresden, were also cut off and train services to the Czech Republic disrupted. Rainfall in the catchment basin of the Kirnitzsch and Sebnitz tributaries exceeded 100 liters per square meter over the course of 24 hours, authorities reported, causing the waters to break up the river banks.

On Wednesday and Thursday, a near-stationary low-pressure weather system in parts of western Germany triggered heavy rains and floods that killed at least 110 people in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate and another 45 in North Rhine-Westphalia. . (NRW).

Men learn a bridge made of mud and debris in Hallein, Austria, after the historic center was flooded
Men learn of a mud and debris bridge in Hallein, Austria, after the historic center was flooded. Photographer: Barbara Gindl / APA / AFP / Getty Images

Extreme weather events, which scientists say occur more frequently due to climate change, have hit Germany two months before federal elections that will determine a successor to Merkel, who will resign after 16 years in office.

Conservative front-runner Armin Laschet, leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), interrupted a party meeting Thursday to attend flood-stricken areas in NRW, the populous western state she represents as prime minister. .

While visiting the devastated city of Erftstadt, where an eroded gravel quarry had engulfed cars, chunks of road and entire buildings, Laschet was caught on Saturday sharing jokes with passersby as German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier solemnly addressed the cameras.

Lars Klingbeil, the general secretary of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), called Laschet’s behavior “lacking in decency and appalling.” Broadcaster WDR commented that each election campaign offered moments “in which the candidates show their true colors,” adding: “Today is one of those moments.”

Laschet tweeted an apology Saturday afternoon. “The fate of those affected, which we hear about in many conversations, is important to us,” he wrote. “So I regret even more the impression that arose from a conversational situation. That was inappropriate and I’m sorry. “

Green Party Chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock, who has struggled to focus the national conversation around ecological issues after a strong campaign start, shortened her vacation to visit affected areas but declined to be accompanied by the press.

Merkel is scheduled to travel to one of the two worst affected regions in western Germany on Sunday, the village of Schuld in the Rhineland-Palatinate state.

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