A key German minister has said that a rumored 8-billion-euro package for flood relief is in the right ball park. It will be financed 50-50 by federal and state governments, Thuringia's state premier said.
According to Thuringia's state premier Christine Lieberknecht, Germany's central government agreed on the multibillion-euro package with Germany's 16 state premiers during a meeting in Berlin on Thursday.
"We think … that a figure of 8 billion euros ($10.6 billion) for this fund is a realistic one to consider," Lieberknecht told reporters on the sidelines of talks with her state counterparts and Chancellor Angela Merkel. Lieberknecht added, however, that the precise size of the fund - and the means by which the money would be raised - was yet to be decided.
Citing German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, she said the federal and state governments had agreed to share the costs equally.
The 8-billion-euro figure was first leaked by government sources on condition of anonymity on Wednesday. Lieberknecht said the fund would likely be up and running by July 5.
Guessing game in fluid situation
Before Thursday, the federal government had pledged about 100 million euros in immediate relief, a figure matched by the individual states.
As Chancellor Merkel had in previous public statements from the flood-hit regions, Lieberknecht said that it was impossible to set concrete figures with the floods still coursing through Germany and the costs of the damage as yet unknown. Merkel on Wednesday, for instance, simply said that the government would impose "no upper limit" on relief efforts.
Dams holding, levels receding
The river Elbe's levels began to sink in Lauenberg in Schleswig-Holstein on Thursday, a town Merkel had visited the previous day. After clocking overnight levels of 9.56 meters (31.36 feet), as opposed to a standard level of around 4.8 meters, local disaster management authorities said that by mid-morning, water level sank to 9.50 meters. The Lauenberg officials said the situation had stabilized and that dams were showing no signs of tears or ruptures.
Worst-case-scenario predictions had suggested that Lauenberg might face an Elbe swelling beyond the 10-meter mark (33 feet).
Settlements in Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg and Lower Saxony are still fighting the Elbe's crest. The high waters are bearing down on the port city of Hamburg, but authorities in the city said on Thursday that they were hoping for comparatively limited damage. The mouth of the Elbe widens and becomes considerably deeper, meaning only a modest rise was likely around the harbor. Emergency services were concentrating on shoring up the dams further upstream, and on Thursday expressed cautious optimism.
In addition to the government efforts to provide aid, millions of Germans have rushed to help those in the flood-hit regions. A YouGov Deutschland poll published on Thursday, with a sample of 1,050 people, found that 15 percent of those surveyed had donated money for flood victims.
msh/ccp (dpa, AFP)