Dhe devastating floods in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia have so far claimed the lives of more than 80 people. The full extent of the disaster was not foreseeable Thursday night. Entire towns were flooded, houses leveled, people locked in basements, areas evacuated. More than 1,000 people are still missing.
While those affected continue to fear for their relatives, the question of economic damage to others arises. In the Ahrweiler district, 100 houses are said to have been destroyed by the floods. The government of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate promised an immediate aid of 50 million euros, and the head of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and candidate for chancellor, Armin Laschet, also assured those affected. However, state aid alone will hardly be enough to bear the economic consequences for all those affected.
After the floods, the insurance industry promised that this year would be one of the most damaging since 2013. In addition to the floods, the storms and rainfall of a few weeks ago also contributed to it. “In June, heavy rain and hail caused an estimated insured loss of €1.7 billion. We will probably have an updated damage estimate in the next week,” the general manager of insurance association GDV, Jörg Asmussen, said on Thursday.
For many years, the association has been encouraging households to purchase natural hazard insurance in addition to regular residential building insurance that pays for economic damage from storms and hail. “It’s gratifying that nearly half of building owners now have protection from other natural hazards,” Asmussen said a few days ago. The rate is now 46 percent. “But for the others, they should review and adjust their insurance coverage.” Reinsurer Munich Re sees climate change and socio-economic changes as the cause of the damage. “This means that the density and value of real estate and infrastructure, so-called exposures, is increasing in affected areas,” a spokesman said. In April, the GDV presented a study on which of the 50 largest German cities are most at risk of heavy rain. The currently heavily affected city of Wuppertal ranked first.
Companies have been lucky so far
So far, businesses have largely succeeded, but levels in many rivers continue to rise. According to the forecasts of the German Weather Service, the strong industrial regions of the Rhine can only hope that the water will peak in the coming days. According to a spokeswoman, chemical group BASF, which operates the world’s largest chemical complex directly on the banks of the Rhine in Ludwigshafen, does not expect production problems to arise. A sewage system overflowed at the Knapsack chemical park in Hürth near Cologne, causing skin irritations to residents.
The storm also caused difficulties in other “chemical parks”. “We cannot rule out that small amounts of hydrocarbons have reached the Rhine. The authorities have been informed,” said a spokesman for Shell Germany, which is based in the Rhineland chemical and energy park south of Cologne. OK, but these won’t be the last heavy rain events. We have to see what we can take from this for the future.”
At the Currenta industrial park operator’s locations in Leverkusen and Dormagen, collection capacities were sufficient, the company said on request. “We are not aware of any damage. The barriers have protected the machine manufacturer Schmale in Altena in North Rhine-Westphalia, so the company’s employees from one of the places in the state most affected by the storm helped on Thursday his teammates to pump out their basements.
NRW Prime Minister Laschet visited the completely flooded town of Altena on Thursday morning. He later announced at a press conference in Hagen that some car suppliers had suffered a total loss. The Wupper flows past the plant of the pharmaceutical and chemical group Bayer in Wuppertal, where the company also wants to produce vaccines in the future. Although the river has reached the highest level in its history, the feared tidal wave on Thursday night did not materialize due to the overflow of the nearby dam.
The production site is not affected, we continue to monitor the situation,” a Bayer spokeswoman said on request. The basements of the administration buildings were full, but the local fire department quickly helped with the pumps. Other businesses in the city didn’t get away with it so lightly: “I assume the damage will be significant, we can’t quantify it yet,” said Thomas Wängler of the Bergische Chamber of Industry and Commerce.