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Germany opens investigation against officials for neglect during floods

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By AP
In this Monday July 19, 2021 file photo people take a break from cleaning the debris from the flood disaster in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany.
In this Monday July 19, 2021 file photo people take a break from cleaning the debris from the flood disaster in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany.   -   Copyright  Bram Janssen/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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German prosecutors have launched formal investigations into whether two regional officials failed to properly warn residents ahead of last month's floods that killed 141 people and injured hundreds more.

Prosecutors in the western city of Koblenz said that investigations so far against the regional administrator in the nearby Ahrweiler county had confirmed an "initial suspicion" of negligent homicide and negligent bodily harm.

At least 141 people died and more than 700 were injured in the Ahr valley on the night of July 14-15. Dozens more died in other parts of western Germany and neighbouring Belgium.

A second member of the crisis management team, who was in charge of the emergency operation for at least part of the night, is also being investigated, prosecutors said.

Residents of the flood-hit towns reported receiving little advance warning of the severe flood that occurred on the night, with some claiming that information from authorities was unclear or entirely absent.

Meanwhile, estimates of the disaster's economic cost continued to rise.

The economy minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Andreas Pinkwart, said the damage in his state alone is expected to run to between 15 billion and 20 billion euros.

Federal and state officials are meeting in Berlin on Tuesday to discuss financial aid for the flood-hit regions.