Düsseldorf (AP) – Prime Minister Armin Laschet (CDU) of North Rhine-Westphalia is this week to discuss financial aid with the municipalities affected by the storm. He said so in a televised speech to the WDR on Sunday evening, according to a prepublished speech manuscript.
Talks are also being held with the federal government. “A catastrophe of national magnitude also needs a rapid national response,” said the Union chancellor. “I’m working hard on this with my colleagues in the state and federal government.” He also wanted to meet with local representatives “to discuss how to design the financial aid to quickly rebuild our homeland”.
Laschet made it clear that removing the damage would be a feat. “As a country, we are doing everything we can to control the direct consequences of the disaster.” The crisis teams met around the clock. “We will feel the wounds of this time for a long time to come,” said the Christian Democrat. “Reconstruction will take months, even years.”
As a result of the flood disaster, he calls for more precautions against extreme weather. “We need to build dams, retention basins, water reservoirs, renaturalize areas – protecting not just the Rhine, but the major and many small rivers across the country,” Laschet said. “In short: protecting nature, the environment, life and limb – effectively strengthening the immune system of our homeland so that we are better equipped against extreme weather conditions.”
The frequency and severity of such disasters are also a result of climate change, Laschet confirmed. “We need to fight it faster and more consistently here and worldwide. The climate allows no delay.”
In the televised speech, the candidate for chancellor of the CDU also remembered the firefighter who died in Altena. Laschet reported the telephone conversation with the 46-year-old’s widow. “She told me that her husband wanted to teach young people values. He wanted to be a role model. He is even more. He’s a hero,” Laschet said. He represents the thousands who do their jobs every day, risking life and limb.
The firefighter fell into the water on Wednesday afternoon in Altena – a town in the Märkisches Kreis – and drowned in the dramatic flooding after saving a man. His colleagues could only have saved him from death.
After looting in Eschweiler near Aachen, which was hit by the storm, three suspects have been detained, Laschet explains. Eschweiler has been hit particularly hard by the consequences of the flooding. “It makes me angry to hear that people are currently returning to their destroyed homes and discovering that looters have stolen what little they have left,” the prime minister said.