German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived at flood-affected areas in North Rhine Westphalia on Tuesday, her second trip to the flood-hit region in western Germany.
Together with Armin Laschet, the state’s premier and Merkel’s possible successor as chancellor after September elections, she is in Bad Muenstereifel in the Euskirchen district.
Merkel promised emergency aid for the people affected by the flood would be delivered in an unbureaucratic manner.
Every effort will be made “to ensure that the money gets to the people quickly,” she said during her visit. “I hope that this is a matter of days.”
The chancellor said she assumed that the reconstruction of the destroyed infrastructure such as roads and railway lines as well as the rebuilding of the city would take longer than a few months. It was very clear “that we need to take a very long breath,” she said.
Merkel had previously visited affected areas in Rhineland-Palatinate, where floods were confirmed to have killed 117 people as of Monday. In North Rhine Westphalia, the death toll was at 47.
She was first briefed on the situation in Bad Muenstereifel by Euskirchen District Administrator Markus Ramers and Mayor Sabine Preiser-Marian.
The organization of disaster control in Germany has been criticized for reaching people too slowly despite warnings from meteorologists.
There is also the fear that the coronavirus could spread during the clean-up work in the affected areas.
“At the moment, many people are coming together in a very small space to deal with the crisis,” David Freichel, who is part of the coronavirus communications staff of the state chancellery in Rhineland-Palatinate, told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland media group on Tuesday.
“We must now be careful that coping with the disaster does not become a super-spread event.”
Many rescue workers, however, have already been fully vaccinated.
The heavy rains and floods also killed over 30 people across the border in Belgium.