German villages could be left with no drinking water after floods

Towns and villages devastated by last week’s extreme weather events in western 독일 fear they could be left without access to power and drinking water for months as the country starts to debate whether a more efficient early-warning system could have saved the lives of some of the 163 who died in the floods.

In the Ahrweiler region on the edge of Eifel mountains, 약 30,000 are currently without power, drinking water and gas, 후 flash floods brought on by record downpours devastated the area last Wednesday, breaking up sewage systems, tearing through a major gas pipeline and bringing a purification plant to a standstill.

“It looks like the infrastructure is destroyed so badly that some places won’t have drinking water for weeks or months”, the mayor of the town of Altenahr in the Ahrweiler district, Cornelia Weigand, told the newspaper Bild.

“It is clear that our community will end up looking very different, because those buildings that defined the area for more than 50, 100 또는 150 years will have to be torn down,” Weigand said.

Even water towers in parts of the area that were spared the worst of the floods had run dry and had to be refilled either through tank lorries or by reviving disused wells and setting up mobile water treatment units, local media reported on Monday.

Germany’s Red Cross has transported two 7,000-litre and four 3,800-litre tanks of drinking water into the region.

The Koblenz-based energy provider EVM said it was still in the process of establishing exactly how many households in Ahrweiler were without gas, which is used to heat water and homes in the region, but that the damage to its supply system was “dramatic”.

Meanwhile German media is asking why warnings issued by the European Flood Awareness System (EFAS) four days before the start of the downpour did not lead to earlier evacuations in the regions predicted to be most affected by ensuing floods.

Prof Hannah Cloke, a hydrologist at the University of Reading who set up and advises EFAS, told Politico the death toll was “a monumental failure of the system”.

The interior minister of the western state of North-Rhine Westphalia, Herbert Reul, conceded that the early warning system had not worked as efficiently as it could have, but said he did not see any “fundamental problems” with the system.

월요일에, a spokesperson for Reul’s ministry said it had passed on warnings to the local municipalities concerned.

The head of Germany’s federal office of civil protection and disaster assistance appeared to shift the blame to local authorities. “The warning infrastructure as such wasn’t our problem, but the question of how sensitive the public authorities and the population are in their response”, said the agency’s president, Armin Schuster.

Schuster told broadcaster Deutschlandfunk that digital warnings, for example via automated text messages and emails, did not always reach all those at risk. 대신, he called for an investment programme to increase the number of flood-warning sirens in areas that could see more floods in the coming years.

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