Important signal for reconstruction
When she returned to the areas of North Rhine-Westphalia that were particularly hard hit by the flooding in July, the Federal Chancellor said the reason for her visit was to send out a signal for the future: “After all, reconstruction work will take a long time.” However, she also said she was optimistic in view of the “solidarity and sense of team spirit” among local people.
"Commitment to carry on with voluntary work”
In the municipality of Schalksmühle, the Federal Chancellor met with members of the volunteer fire brigade. Two of their colleagues died in action during the night of the flooding. The Federal Chancellor spoke to the firefighters about this tragic incident and how they were coming to terms with it, as well as the lasting impressions left by the flood disaster. Merkel was deeply impressed by the firefighters’ profound commitment to “carry on their important voluntary work” in spite of the tragic accident that occurred in the effort to save lives.
Important glimmer of hope
One key part of her visit to North Rhine-Westphalia focused on the reconstruction of the areas that were particularly hard hit by the extreme weather. Together with state premier Laschet, the Federal Chancellor visited a bridge in Hagen that was very badly damaged by the floods: it has since been 85 percent rebuilt and will be opened to traffic again in a few days’ time. Merkel called this an important “glimmer of hope”" for the people and the region, while at the same reminding them that other things would take longer.
Joining forces to accelerate reconstruction
The Federal Chancellor also attended a municipal conference on reconstruction in Hagen. The money from the flood relief fund, totalling 30 billion euros, was to be used quickly and in a targeted way, said Merkel. Local policy-makers had an advantage here, she said, as well as bearing a particular responsibility: “Those who know best where swift aid is required are, of course, the people on the ground and those in charge at local level, such as the mayors and district councillors.” The Federal Chancellor also encouraged those involved to contact the relevant authorities immediately in case of problems or questions, “so that frustration does not build up, enabling the Federal Government, regional governments and the municipalities to coordinate effectively.”