Crisis Watch: Germany

Daniel Rowe - International Editor 18 June 2013

At least 19 people have now died in floods that have swept across Central Europe. The Elbe, the Danube and other rivers overflowed their banks following weeks of heavy rain, causing extensive damage in Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. Some 23,000 people were forced to leave their homes when a dam burst on the flood-swollen River Elbe. In Budapest, although flood defences appeared to have held, 1,200 people had to leave their homes.

Damage from this bout of flooding is expected to lead to insurance claims of up to ₤2.5billion, according to the credit rating agency Fitch Ratings. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the city of Bavarian city of Passau on the border with the Czech Republic, where she declared that 8 billion euros in aid for reconstruction would be provided by the federal state and regional administrations in order to reconstruct parts of the country submerged under water. The amount of aid now is thus greater than following the “floods of the century” of 2002 in Germany (which cost the country 6.5 billion euros).

Meanwhile, along more than 700km of the River Danube, thousands of people, including volunteers and prison convicts, have worked to reinforce earth and sandbag barriers. The effect on the environment has also been noteworthy. Worst hit are rabbits and beavers, drowned by the waters. In some parts of Bavaria more than 70 percent of newborn storks have died from hypothermia according to the Bavarian Federation for the Protection of Birds. But the floods have not been bad news for all animals. Midges and other flying animals have grown in number, and so too the adult storks able to feed on them, their competitors having been decimated.

Daniel Rowe – International Editor