NewsCommittee of inquiry into the flood disaster: Telegram chat...

Committee of inquiry into the flood disaster: Telegram chat logs cause outrage

Were there omissions on the part of those responsible in the run-up to the flood? Dubious telegram chats now paint an unflattering picture of the environment minister.

Mainz – If the environment minister’s main concern is public appearances during a flood disaster in her own country, the committee of inquiry may also become suspicious. A few days before the planned hearing of Federal Family Minister Anne Spiegel (Greens*) on the devastating flood in Rhineland-Palatinate in July 2021, non-public chat logs are causing a stir.

According to short messages published by the FAZ and Focus Online, the main thing between Spiegel and their press spokesman on the morning after the flood disaster was to find a wording that would have warned them in good time. At the time of the flood disaster, Spiegel was Minister for the Environment and Deputy Prime Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate.

Storms with unusually heavy rainfall triggered a flood disaster in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia in mid-July 2021. In the night of the floods from July 14 to 15, 135 people died in northern Rhineland-Palatinate. Around 750 people were injured. The investigative committee set up by the state parliament is examining whether there were any omissions or errors in the course of the catastrophe. An expert appointed by the committee had pointed out numerous deficiencies and omissions. Above all, there was a lack of an unequivocal warning to the population.

Überflutetes Freibad


The devastating flood disaster in July 2021 caused immense damage. (Archive)

Environment Minister Anne Spiegel kept an eye on political strategy during the 2021 flood disaster

A meteorologist was surprised at the lack of official warnings. “Meteorologists have given a warning three to four days in advance. You have given sufficient warning,” said meteorologist Dominik Jung from the private weather service Q.met. The German Weather Service (DWD) has displayed purple warning levels, this is the highest warning level, which is extremely rare for the more cautious DWD. “Nevertheless, basically nothing happened beforehand,” said Jung.

According to the chat publications, Spiegel also writes that she trusts State Interior Minister Roger Lewentz (SPD*) to say that the disaster could have been prevented or was less bad if the Ministry of the Environment had warned earlier. The CDU parliamentary group leader in the state parliament, Christian Baldauf, criticized: “Spiegel puts the media performance and power-political tactics above the plight of the people in the Ahr Valley. That is shameful and unworthy of a minister.”

The chairman of the largest opposition faction in the committee of inquiry, Dirk Herber (CDU*), called for Spiegel to provide “complete clarification with regard to their crisis management on the night of the flood”. Spiegel should also disclose all contacts with the Ministry of the Interior during the disaster. Spiegel is expected to be interviewed in Mainz on Friday evening (03/11/2022).

Flood disaster 2021 – “The system didn’t work”

The parliamentary group leader of the Greens parliamentary group, Bernhard Braun, spoke of a “malicious campaign” to thwart the investigative committee’s previous investigative work. The previous witness statements in the investigative committee had clearly shown: “The warnings were all there, even on site. Also the authorities responsible for civil protection, who were responsible for the operation management,” said Braun, who is also a member of the committee. “The Ministry of the Environment cannot interfere with the responsibilities of the civil protection authorities. Based on the feedback, there was certainty that all the information was available on site.”

The Environment Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) Ursula Heinen-Esser (CDU) has attested to the country’s system failure during the flood disaster.* “NRW was poorly positioned when it came to flood protection. The system didn’t work,” said the minister as a witness in the investigative committee on the disaster. “My mistake was that I trusted the existing system,” said the 56-year-old.

The structures taken over from the previous government are now being fundamentally put to the test. “There is no flood forecast system in North Rhine-Westphalia,” she said. In North Rhine-Westphalia, 49 people died in the flood disaster, and the damage to property was estimated at around 13 billion euros. (na/dpa) * is an offer from IPPEN.MEDIA.

List of rubrics: © Klaus Storch

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