Merkel visits North Rhine-Westphalia in the midst of a storm

German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited North Rhine-Westphalia’s disaster zone on Tuesday afternoon. Together with the Prime Minister of the state, Armin Laschet, she visited the town of Bad Münstereifel, where she talked to residents and aid workers.

Germany is seeing a lot of discussion around disaster relief following the severe weather. The text message system was apparently too late to warn people living in the areas affected. Merkel stated at a press conference, that the government would explore ways to improve this system. Merkel promised that the government will make more money available to rebuild the country than was necessary after the floods. She also said that the money would be distributed quickly to help people. She said, “I hope it’s only a matter of hours.”

Prime Minister Laschet (candidating for Merkel’s position as chancellor in the Christian Democrats after September elections) warned that “we must accept that this is going to become more and more frequent in the future.” He advocated therefore for a comprehensive program that would adapt rivers to climate change.

Laschet also admitted that bureaucracy can sometimes hinder cleanup and repair. “In Germany we are perfect, but we are also perfect in bureaucracy.”

Merkel visited already areas in Rhineland-Palatinate, which were heavily affected by last week’s storms and floods. In Rhineland-Palatinate, at least 121 people died and 48 in North Rhine-Westphalia. The death toll in Belgium has risen up to 31. On Tuesday afternoon, the National Crisis Center in Belgium reported that 53 people remain missing. Germany still has more than 100 missing persons.

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