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German officials investigated for homicide over slow flood response

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By Reuters
German officials investigated for homicide over slow flood response
German officials investigated for homicide over slow flood response   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

By Paul Carrel

BERLIN – Two officials in Germany are under investigation for suspected negligent homicide over slow evacuations during floods that killed 141 people in their state, authorities said on Friday.

The western Rhineland-Palatinate state took the brunt of Germany’s most lethal floods in six decades that killed more than 170 people, cut power to hundreds of thousands of homes and left a repair bill of more than 6 billion euros ($7 billion).

The state’s Office of Criminal Investigation said initial work by the public prosecutor’s office in the city of Koblenz indicated that evacuations had been delayed and two officials in the western district of Ahrweiler were being investigated.

The pair, who were not named, were suspected of negligent homicide and bodily harm due to negligence, the office’s statement added. Documents and data from the Ahrweiler crisis team and personal communication tools were taken for analysis.

The floods have shaken up German politics ahead of a national election in September, raising uncomfortable questions about why Europe’s largest economy was caught flat-footed and how to prepare for the impact of global warming.

Two thirds of Germans believe that federal and regional policymakers should have done more to protect communities, a survey for German newspaper Bild showed late last month.

“At present there is only an initial suspicion, which is naturally based on a state of knowledge that is fraught with uncertainties and gaps,” the Office of Criminal Investigation said in its statement about the prosecutor’s inquiry.

The Ahrweiler district administrative office was not immediately available for comment. As well as the death toll, more than 700 people were injured by the floods in Rhineland-Palatinate.

($1 = 0.8470 euros)