Germany approves $472M in flood aid
BERLIN — Germany’s Cabinet approved Wednesday a roughly $472 million package of immediate aid for flood victims and vowed to start quickly on rebuilding devastated areas, a task expected to cost well into the billions. Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the package, financed half by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s federal government and half by Germany’s state governments, to help people deal with the immediate aftermath of last week’s flooding would increase if more money is needed. “We will do what is necessary to help everyone as quickly as possible,” Scholz said. At least 171 people were killed in Germany, well over half of them in Ahrweiler county, near Bonn, when small rivers swelled quickly into raging torrents after persistent downpours. Another 31 died in neighboring Belgium, bringing the death toll in both countries to 202. The deluges also destroyed or severely damaged homes, businesses and infrastructure. Authorities in the affected states are responsible for details of who receives how much aid and how, but Scholz said they have indicated it will be “a very unbureaucratic process” that involves no means-testing. “It’s necessary to send a message quickly that there is a future, that we are taking care of it together, that this is a matter for us as the whole country to help with,” he added.