Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday defended Germany’s warning systems against widespread criticism after deadly floods last week.
Speaking during her visit to the country’s flood-hit state of North Rhine-Westphalia on Tuesday, Merkel said Germany had a “very good warning system” but pledged a thorough review of “what worked and what didn’t work” in the wake of the natural disaster.
It was Merkel’s second visit to the region since the flooding, which killed at least 165 people in Germany and 31 in neighbouring Belgium.
According to a report from Aljazeera, Merkel said the government would discuss using cell broadcast flood warning systems in the future following criticism that people in affected areas were not sufficiently warned of the danger.
She said that under Germany’s federal system, the Weather Service and the Federal Office for Population and Disaster Protection had passed on information quickly to local governments but that they were unable to evacuate people ahead of the rapidly rising waters.
Under Germany’s federal system, it is up to the 16 regional states to organise responses to flood alerts and coordinate efforts with the civil protection office and the fire brigade.
“You can debate for a long time about the warning mechanisms,” Merkel said, while stressing that the country’s mobile phone app Nina had worked as planned in the face of the impending disaster.
She said that while those whose homes still had WiFi received warning messages, many who were out as mobile phone networks collapsed were deprived of emergency information.
“Perhaps the good old siren is more useful than we thought,” she added.
For immediate relief, the federal government plans to provide $236m in emergency aid to repair buildings and damaged local infrastructure, and to help people in crisis situations, a draft document, due to go to cabinet on Wednesday, showed.
That will come on top of 200 million euros that would come from the 16 federal states.
The government also hopes for financial support from the European Union’s solidarity fund.
The disaster has also magnified the issue of climate change in Germany ahead of the September 26 poll that will mark the end of Merkel’s 16 years in power, with the 67-year-old having already announced she will not seek another term in office.