Merkel tours ’surreal’ flood scene, vows aid, climate action
German Chancellor Angela Merkel surveyed what she called a "surreal, ghostly" scene in a devastated village on July 18, pledging quick financial aid and a redoubled political focus on curbing climate change as the death toll from floods in Western Europe climbed above 180.
Merkel toured Schuld, a village on a tight curve of the Ahr River in western Germany where many buildings were damaged or destroyed by rapidly rising floodwaters Wednesday night.
Although the mayor of Schuld said no one was killed or injured there, many other places weren't so lucky. The death toll in the Ahrweiler area, where Schuld is located, stood at 112. Authorities said people are still missing and they fear the toll may still rise.
In neighboring North Rhine-Westphalia state, Germany's most populous, 46 people were killed, including four firefighters. Belgium confirmed 31 deaths.
Merkel said she came away from Schuld, still partly strewn with rubble and mud in bright sunshine, with "a real picture of, I must say, the surreal, ghostly situation."
"It is shocking _ I would almost say that the German language barely has words for the devastation that has been wreaked," she said at a news conference in a nearby town.
Merkel said authorities will work to "set the world right again in this beautiful region, step by step," and her Cabinet will approve an immediate and medium-term financial aid program on Wednesday.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that more than 300 million euros ($354 million) will be needed immediately. And he said officials must set up a longer-term rebuilding program which, from experience with previous flooding, will be in the billions of euros.
"Thankfully, Germany is a country that can manage...
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