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Germany was warned about floods, but few communities took action

The first accurate warning that Germany was about to be hit by a storm that could cause a fatal flood arrived at the National Meteorological Office almost three days ago in the early morning of July 12. A disaster has occurred..

It’s Monday morning, a hockey rink-sized machine, this government supercomputer generated a series of West German community-predicted model predictions with over 90% certainty and accuracy up to 2 square kilometers. ..Fell into Serious flood by late wednesday..

Warning forecasts, quickly proven to be accurate, immediately triggered the country’s sophisticated flood warning system at 6 am and notified the government, paramedics, police, and key media during the service of the agency. Featured by a meteorologist. The oncoming catastrophe.

Some local governments were wary of warnings, alerting residents and potentially saving lives, but many others did not before flash floods hit Germany last Wednesday. Killed more than 160 people Nearly 1000 people are seriously injured. Authorities say rescue teams could increase their numbers as they continue to scrutinize destroyed homes.

In those places, excessive reliance on digital tools such as old school sirens and warning apps aimed at replacing public service announcements, resistance to ordering evacuation, and the imminent consequences of such disasters. Experts and officials said the preemptive response was among the factors that simply incredible about.

Some experts said the situation was similar to the early situation of a coronavirus pandemic. At that time, some governments were late in taking appropriate steps to avoid disasters that no one had ever witnessed.

Local governments in German towns, such as Bad Neuenard, are responsible for warning or evacuation of the community.


Photo:

Thomas Lawns / Getty Images

Germany faces record deaths and severe devastation in densely populated areas, raising questions about its flood preparedness in Europe’s largest economy and whether it could save lives.

Monday’s government of Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected Accusation from opposition politicians Failure to respond to warnings from its own Meteorological Agency. Independent meteorologists and scientists have also issued their own public alerts before the flood, including social media.

As the September 26 general election approached, the flood became a matter of campaign. Opposition politicians said Monday that Merkel’s government should address these early warnings and called for the resignation of Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who oversees disaster management.

“This was a serious organizational failure. We need to openly discuss the failure of the government and what needs to be improved immediately to prevent it from repeating,” said a centre-right Liberal Democratic Party member. Michael Theurer said.

Seehofer declined the accusation, saying the federal government was not responsible for preventing natural disasters.

In Germany’s decentralization system, this role lies with the city and county councils of 16 federal states whose mission is to act on the warnings of the Meteorological Department.

“We issued a warning as soon as possible,” said Uwe Kirsche, a spokesman for the Meteorological Department. The service then alerted social media channels and alerted apps used by about 10 million people in Germany, Kirsche said.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is responsible for disaster management in Germany.


Photo:

Friedemann Vogel / EPA / Shutterstock

The warning was then broadcast on public television, and newscasters announced that it would rain 200 liters per square meter in some of the areas that were later flooded. This was a very rare amount and was certain to cause serious floods.

Armin Schuster, head of the Federal Bureau of Civil Protection and Disaster Relief, said Germany has its own excellent alarm system that works perfectly. He said more than 150 warnings were issued before the flood, 16 of which represent a fatal danger.

But for many ordinary viewers, this was the only weather warning among many. And many local governments tasked with preparing residents for floods were surprised at how quickly the incident unfolded.

Flash floods that broke out after midnight on Wednesday cut off electricity and telecommunications networks, blocking people in the affected areas from official communications.

According to data released by the German Meteorological Agency, it rained nearly 200 millimeters in three days in parts of Germany. This is about the same as what was recorded in a month in India during the monsoon season.

County with a siren warning system originally designed for air raids, and counties that sent fire trucks with speakers to drive overnight and warn residents to flee to higher ground than counties that followed other protocols. It seems to have worked. Or those resources were missing.

Details of floods in Europe

Some people who were warned rushed to their basement when the floods began to rescue valuable items that were just overwhelmed by the sudden torrent, officials involved in the rescue. Said. As the water sank, rescuers began to find lifeless corpses in the basements of buildings throughout the flooded area. People driving on the road when the flood struck were quickly caught in an overwhelming water mass that threw a car like a toy.

“We didn’t pay enough attention to the unknown,” Kirsche said. “If I didn’t know that the flood would take less than a minute to completely fill the basement, I would have rushed to the basement to grab what I cherish.”

Floods are relatively common in Germany, but early unpublished estimates from his service have come to the conclusion that last week’s floods are an event that is likely to occur only once every 500 years. Kirsche said.

Daniela Adelsbach, who runs a pharmacy in Ehrang near the town of Trier, said local firefighters had passed through the town on Wednesday at 1 am and warned people to look for hills. Adelsbach quickly moved valuables from the ground floor business to the ground floor.

The next morning, the firefighters came back and ordered them to evacuate as soon as the water began to swell. In less than a minute, the water level rose from 1 centimeter to more than 0.5 meters, and the current was strong enough to kill a person, she added.

The bridge over Ahrweiler’s Ah was destroyed by the flood.


Photo:

Boris Roessler / DPA / Zuma Press

However, due to the early decline, no one in the community was killed or seriously injured.

The nearby city of Wuppertal also emerged from the floods without casualties after authorities sounded sirens and sent firefighters to warn residents. Wuppertal is one of the few cities in which a siren system, including speakers capable of broadcasting recorded flood warnings, is still in operation.

The siren system, first used in World War II air raids, was almost abandoned after the Cold War when the possibility of an air raid became a distant memory. Still, Wuppertal was holding a siren, said Ulrike Schmidt Kessler, a city spokeswoman.

“The disaster was clearly predicted. The only question was where the floods would occur, so we sent warnings on social media and local radio and sirens when things got worse on Wednesday night. I triggered and sent an alert. Get out of the fire department, “said Schmidt Kessler.

She said the fire truck was broadcasting a pre-recorded announcement instructing people to look for hills. Flood shelters have been set up to help people living in vulnerable homes seek evacuation from floods.

“I believe that siren alerts and announcements for real residents are more effective than relying on digital tools because not everyone has an app. As it happened, in the flood. You can’t rely on your cell phone because you can lose your connection, “she added.

Even communities that have experienced floods struggle to quickly strengthen their preparations. According to Mayor Klaus Schmidt, the 2016 flood-hit Bavarian town of Simbach am Inn continues to work on acquiring a siren system with automatic announcements like Wuppertal.

According to Schmidt, severe weather warnings occur relatively often and cannot alert residents every time, let alone order evacuation.

The federal government is financially supporting the state to deploy a new network of siren warning systems, a government spokesman said.

Fred Hatterman, a researcher on hydroclimatic risks in Potsdam, said authorities and the general public to improve Germany’s response and support society for a future where such events may become more frequent. The Institute for Climate Impact Studies said it was reluctant to deal with meteorologist warnings among both citizens.

“Especially in vulnerable areas that are currently flooded, that is, in very densely populated communities nested in small valleys with old infrastructure and disadvantaged land elevations, people observe the weather. We have to take the warning from the place very seriously, “he said.

Write to Bojan Pancevski at bojan.pancevski@wsj.com

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Germany was warned about floods, but few communities took action

Source link Germany was warned about floods, but few communities took action

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