Post-election, infrastructure question looms over Germany’s flood-damaged regions

Date: 2021-09-27 14:03:45

Results from Germany’s national election are in. The center-left Social Democrats narrowly beat outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel ’s center-right Union bloc in the race to determine who succeeds her at the helm of Europe’s biggest economy.

A number of issues dominated the campaign trail, but climate change has remained at the top of the list this summer after devastating floods rocked the western part of the country.

We’ve been traveling through some of the worst affected areas, finding out whether more resilient infrastructure could help limit the damage from catastrophic weather events like this one.

Drilling and construction are the sounds of resilience echoing through the town of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler in western Germany.

It hugs the banks of the Ahr river, which this summer burst during catastrophic floods. Many described the devastation as the worst in a hundred years.

“Everything’s got to be replaced from top to bottom: Heating, electricity, doors, windows, my stock. I’ve only got two tables and a mannequin left. That’s it,” said Martina Kleinow, who owns a women’s clothing and accessories shop called Clara.

All that’s left of it now though, is the facade.

Shop owner Martina Kleinow outside of her destroyed business in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler in western Germany. The town was ravaged by flooding over the summer. (Photo credits: Victoria Craig / BBC)

The light hardwood floors have been ripped up. The molding and white-painted walls are gone. Even the windows and her large shop sign above the door have been demolished. It was all reduced to rubble, now shoved in five-foot bags outside on the sidewalk.

“When I stood by the church the next morning at 8 a.m., I could see everything, it was unbelievable, what came through here, the mass of it, the force of it,” she said.

In this, the hardest hit flood region in Germany, officials said at least 130 people died. Hundreds more were injured and some missing. Many blame, in part, lack of advance warning, and German prosecutors have launched an investigation into whether residents were properly made aware of the risks and dangers of the storm.

Now, focus is turning to ways to prevent storms like this from causing so much devastation.

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