Germany: Infrastructure Negligence Results in Huge Damage from Floods

5 June (EIRNS) The east and south of Germany, along with Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary, are suffering badly from the huge floods. A consistent low pressure area associated with the stationary warm front over parts of Europe had triggered extreme amounts of rainfall (a so-called Vb weather situation) in these areas. In Germany, especially Bavaria, Thuringia, and Saxony had to declare emergency alerts in many regions, with 28,000 firemen and 1,760 soldiers deployed, nationally, as of yesterday.

All municipalities along the Elbe, including Dresden are threatened and expect a similar, if not worse, situation than in the “century flood” of 2002. Lower Saxony and Sachsen-Anhalt are expecting huge flooding along the Elbe. In Bavaria, ten counties and cities were declared emergency zones yesterday evening.

In several places, such as the county around Leipzig, efforts to shore up dams had to be abandoned. In small cities like Grimma, south of Leipzig, 2,000 people had to leave their homes, with parts of the city destroyed again; they had just completed their renovation from the catastrophe of 2002. This case also shows, how far behind the building of dams and other precautions is — despite nominal programs: In Saxony, which worked out a long-term protection concept after the “century-flood” of 2002 (EU1 billion was allocated up through 2020), only 80 of 351 projects were completed, with 55 more under construction. There are 216 projects still to be planned or approved. Of a projected 450 km of dams, only 120 km were expanded, and 23 km in all were newly built. While we have to find out why the programs were not completed much more quickly, it’s clear that the mixture of austerity, bureaucracy, negligence, and environmentalist craziness that dominates Germany, has again turned out to be catastrophic.

In the case of Jessnitz, a small town in Sachsen-Anhalt northeast of Bitterfeld, the mayor reportedly tried for ten years to consolidate promises for a rebuilding of the dam, including a petition campaign to the state minister-president, and nothing happened. Now, the old dam has broken and the entire “old town” area had to be given up. The state of Sachsen-Anhalt is one of those in the East which was worst hit by the deindustrialization of the last 20 years after reunification, and has major fiscal problems.

Streets and bridges have been hit heavily, with damage already in the realm of hundreds of millions of euros. Agriculture has suffered similarly, with up to 60% crop loss of seasonal produce, such as strawberries and asparagus, and large areas of farmland under water. As far as damage to the harvest is concerned, insurance pays for hail damage but not for other weather-caused problems. Private citizens will have to pay a huge share: about 40% of the population in Saxony and Thuringia, where floods are more common than elsewhere in Germany, have special insurance for these cases, which is of course hard to get in the high-risk areas.

So far, apart from an announced EU150 million emergency program in Bavaria, government representatives only utter generalized statements concerning “help.” Interior Minister Zimmermann said that “the population can be assured that we will do everything to alleviate damage to them.” A determined approach to control the situation from the top down, sounds surely different. Meanwhile, Chancellor Merkel and Bavarian Minister President Horst Seehofer used the occasion to get election campaign footage at the flood sites in Bavaria and in Saxony.

While the flooding has not ended, and complete damage cannot be assessed yet, one thing is clear: Without Glass-Steagall and an overall credit-fueled economic reconstruction policy, there is no future.

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