Flood disaster in the Ahr valley: Dreyer focuses on reconstruction

Flood disaster in the Ahr valley: Dreyer focuses on reconstruction

The Prime Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate testifies again in the investigative committee. She insists: The extent of the flood was unpredictable.

Malu Dreyer (SPD), Prime Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate, looks up to the side

CDU and AfD call for their resignation: Prime Minister Malu Dreyer (SPD) Photo: Boris Roessler/dpa

MAINZ taz | For the second time this Friday, the investigative committee of the Rhineland-Palatinate state parliament Flood disaster in the Ahr Valley Prime Minister Malu Dreyer, SPD, invited as a witness. At the first interrogation in April last year, two other members of the state government were ahead of her. At that time, the Prime Minister’s turn only came late in the evening.

For long hours, the members of parliament had put their former cabinet colleagues through the wringer, with serious consequences: Green State Minister for the Environment Anne Spiegel, at the time of her questioning already Federal Minister for Family Affairs in Berlinand Interior Minister Roger Lewentz, SPD, lost their offices, because they had to admit mistakes in their area of ​​responsibility. Now the opposition is targeting the boss herself.

Why didn’t she personally take over the direction on the night of the disaster in which 135 people died in the Ahr Valley? Could human lives have been saved if civil protection had worked better?

For three hours, variations on this key question will be dealt with. And like a year ago, the Prime Minister’s answer is the same: “I assumed that this flood could be managed,” she says. And: “I had no knowledge of the fact that some local authorities did not work and also not of the fact that the flood disaster was of such magnitude”.

Dreyer insists on the unpredictability

She trusted that the civil protection organized in Rhineland-Palatinate under the responsibility of the districts and cities would work smoothly and that the higher state authority, the supervisory and service department, would intervene if necessary, as in the “flood of the century” in 2018, according to Dreyer’s mantra. “Please note that no one expected this scale.”

The opposition MPs see things differently. They hold the prime minister up to testimonies of leading meteorologists and weather experts. They had said that the day before the flood, a heavy rain event with enormous amounts of water for the Eifel and Ahr was foreseeable.

But Dreyer sticks to it: nobody could have seen the “impact and destruction of the flood wave” on the Ahr coming. Like her colleagues Lewentz and Spiegel, she herself went to sleep at night assuming that everything would go smoothly, including the exchange of information between the ministries responsible for monitoring the water levels (environment) and the higher-level civil protection (interior).

responsibility for reconstruction

In the course of its work, however, the committee of inquiry uncovered significant shortcomings in the decision-making processes and in the flow of information between those responsible. The environmental agency had predicted a catastrophe of enormous proportions early on. However, this information and a dramatic emergency call from the community of Altenahr ended up in the nirvana of responsibilities.

The district administrator of the Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler district, which was particularly affected, delegated management of disaster control to an employee on the night of the flood, in order to regulate private matters in the meantime. The public prosecutor is investigating against him.

The opposition parties and those affected from the region are therefore also calling on the Prime Minister to take responsibility for the shortcomings and mistakes or at least to apologize for them. “The great suffering, the destruction, that took me a lot personally,” says Dreyer on Friday and turns again to those affected: “I am infinitely sorry for their fate. I can’t undo the suffering.”

But she sees her responsibility in Rebuild with full force to advance Disaster control is also being reorganized so that it is better prepared for natural disasters, which are increasing in intensity and frequency due to climate change, according to Dreyer.

CDU and AfD call for Dreyer’s resignation

After questioning the Prime Minister, the CDU indirectly and the AfD explicitly called for her resignation. “We are already a bit ashamed of the Prime Minister’s appearance,” says CDU Chairman Dirk Herber; she is responsible for the actions of the state government and therefore has to draw personal consequences. The AfD parliamentary group leader Michael Fritsch goes further: “Ms. Dreyer failed just like her government in the night of the flood, she must resign”.

For the SPD, their chairman Nico Steinbach rejects these demands. According to the Social Democrat, the Prime Minister had plausibly demonstrated that she could not have expected a catastrophe of unknown proportions on the night of the flood; he was also unable to gain any new insights from questioning Dreyer.

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