German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, gestures besides Malu Dreyer, Prime Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate, left, and mayor Ruediger Fuhrmann during their visit to the flood-damaged Altenahr, Germany, Friday, Sept. 3, 2021. After days of extreme downpours causing devastating floods hit the valley of the river Ahr in July. AP
Chancellor Angela Merkel indicated Friday that German authorities would provide however much money is needed to repair damage caused by devastating July floods, renewing promises for rapid help as she returned to the valley hit worst by the disaster.
More than 180 people died in Germany and hundreds more were injured in the July 14-15 floods, which also claimed lives in neighboring Belgium. Heavy rainfall turned small streams into raging torrents, sweeping away houses, bridges and cars. The narrow Ahr valley, near Bonn in western Germany, suffered the most destruction.
The German government quickly put in place a roughly 400 million-euro ($474 million) package of immediate aid for flood victims. Last month, it agreed to provide 30 billion euros ($36 billion) in longer-term aid to help rebuild the affected regions.
Merkel said after visiting the town of Altenahr on Friday that the seven weeks since she first went to survey the flood damage had brought much progress but added, ``I have a great deal of respect for what lies ahead of us.``
``We face a very, very long haul,`` said the longtime leader, who is not running for reelection in Germany's federal election this month.
Asked whether 30 billion euros would be enough to cover the cost of rebuilding, Merkel said that if it wasn't, ``any future German government and state government will say, `Then we have to do more.'``
``No one needs to be afraid that this will fail because of money,'' she said during a news conference.
A German insurance industry group has estimated that the floods likely caused insured damage worth about 7 billion euros ($8.3 billion). It says the total damage will be considerably higher because many buildings weren't insured for ``elementary damage'' from events such as floods.
Rhineland-Palatinate's state governor, Malu Dreyer, said people can start applying for reconstruction aid at the beginning of October.
``I understand the impatience, but we are really working on making it very uncomplicated for people,'' she said.
Altenahr Mayor Cornelia Weigand said the rebuilding of the Ahr valley could be tackled as a European ``model`` for communities located near waterways.
``We must develop concepts for how we can continue to live safely alongside such rivers in times of climate change,'' she said.