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Merkel visits flood-devastated Ahr Valley

September 3, 2021

During her visit, Merkel promised that the government would not abandon locals who lost their homes and businesses. Villages along the river Ahr were the hardest hit in July's deadly floods.

Angela Merkel and Malu Dreyer survey damage in the Ahr valley
Angela Merkel and regional leader Malu Dreyer (third from left in the foreground) survey damage in the Ahr valleyImage: Markus Schreiber/dpa/picture alliance

Seven weeks after deadly floods swept through the region, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made her second visit to the Ahr Valley, speaking to victms and surveying the clear-up operation.

"We will not forget you," Merkel said. Referring to Germany's upcoming federal election, she added that "the next federal government will take over" with the repair and reconstruction efforts.

Ahr valley suffered majority of casualties

Before the July floods, the Ahr Valley in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate was known for its vineyards and scenic hiking. Several of the villages date back to the medieval period or even earlier, with many houses and businesses sitting directly on the banks of the Ahr river.

The Ahr burst its banks after a month of unusually heavy rains, exacerbated by climate change. Local leaders were heavily criticized for not adequately preparing residents despite weeks of downpours that increased the likelihood of flooding.

German businesses struggle after major flood

Of the more than 180 people that died in Germany during the floods, 133 perished in the Ahr Valley.

Visiting the village of Altenahr-Altenburg alongside Rhineland-Palatinate leader Malu Dreyer, Merkel said she was encouraged by the success of the clean-up operation so far.

DW's Sabine Kinkartz was also in Altenburg, where she said traumatized residents were lobbying Dreyer and Merkel to stop local authorities from demolishing their damaged homes:

Dreyer thanked Merkel, saying her visit was a "strong signal" to the people of her state that the government had not abandoned them.

Earlier this week, Merkel's cabinet approved a €30 billion (roughly $35 billion) aid package to help town governments, individuals, businesses, and other institutions recoup the costs of damage and rebuilding. It is expected to be approved next week by the Bundesrat, the upper house of Germany's parliament.

Elizabeth Schumacher
Elizabeth Schumacher Elizabeth Schumacher reports on gender equity, immigration, poverty and education in Germany.