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Climate change blamed for flooding

By Julian Shea in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-07-19 02:27

An aerial photo taken on July 15, 2021 shows the clinic and hospital Mutterhaus Ehrang surrounded by flood water, in Trier, western Germany, after it was evacuated following heavy rains. [Photo/Agencies]

Residents of towns and cities across Northern Europe have begun to pick through the wreckage in the aftermath of devastating flooding that left at least 180 people dead, with many more still missing.

Belgium and Germany have been hit particularly hard, and Austria now faces similar problems, with the capital Vienna having received more rainfall in one hour on Saturday than in the previous seven weeks.

Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have also been affected, but it is Germany that has suffered most, with at least 156 people, including four firefighters, known to have died in incidents that are being blamed on climate change.

"Climate change isn't abstract anymore. We are experiencing it up close and painfully," said Malu Dreyer, governor of the Rhineland-Palatinate state in southwest Germany, one of the worst-affected regions, which is close to the border with Belgium.

Germany's environment minister, Svenja Schulze, said the floods showed climate change "has arrived in Germany".

"These events show the force with which the consequences of climate change can affect us all, and how important it is to prepare even better for such extreme weather events in the future," she tweeted.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen backed up their comments.

"It is the intensity and the length of the events that science tells us this is a clear indication of climate change and that this is something that really, really shows the urgency to act," she added.

The army has been sent into four of Belgium's 10 provinces to help with the rescue and recovery effort. So far, at least 27 people are known to have died in what Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said could be "the most catastrophic (floods) our country has ever seen", and July 20, the day before the country's National Day celebrations, has been declared a day of national mourning.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is coming to the end of her term of office, was due to visit some of the worst-affected regions on Sunday, but one of her potential successors has provoked outrage with his behavior.

Armin Laschet, a leading member of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party, which is known as the CDU, was seen to be joking with colleagues while standing in the background as the country's president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, spoke to the media expressing his condolences for those affected by the floods.

"This was inappropriate and I am sorry," Laschet later tweeted. The Bloomberg agency reported that he also said he regretted "the impression created by a conversational situation".

Lars Klingbeil, secretary general of the center-left Social Democrats, who are coalition partners with the CDU, said he was "speechless" at Laschet's behavior, while Maximilian Reimers of the far-left Die Linke party was quoted by thelocal.de website as saying: "This is all apparently a big joke to (Laschet) … how could he be a chancellor?"

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