The German government aims to rebuild government-owned infrastructure damaged by the floods in the western part of the country as quickly as possible and hopes for contributions to the cost from the European Union’s solidarity fund, a draft document seen by Reuters on Tuesday showed.
The federal government plans to provide 200 million euros in emergency aid to repair buildings, damaged local infrastructure and to help people in crisis situations, the document showed.
If the states also contribute 200 million, that will mean a total of 400 million euros in immediate aid, it said.
German officials have rejected allegations that they failed to properly warn people of the severity of the floods, but conceded that more lessons can be learned from the disaster. Experts say global warming may make such floods even more frequent.
Flooding has devastated parts of Western Europe since last Wednesday, with the German states of Rhineland Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia, as well as parts of Belgium, among the worst hit.
In the Ahrweiler district south of Cologne, at least 117 people were killed, and police warned that the death toll would almost certainly rise as the clean-up continues from floods whose costs are expected to rise into the many billions.
The high death toll has raised questions around why so many people seemed to have been surprised by the flash flooding, with opposition politicians suggesting the death toll revealed serious failings in Germany’s flood preparedness.
A woman throws away rubbish in the centre of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler
Seehofer said in response that the German National Meteorological Service (DWD) issues warnings to Germany’s 16 states and from there to districts and communities that decide at a local level how to respond.
"It would be completely inconceivable for such a catastrophe to be managed centrally from any one place," Seehofer told journalists on Monday. "You need local knowledge."
Criticism of the emergency response was "cheap election campaign rhetoric", he said.
The devastation of the floods, attributed by meteorologists to the effects of climate change, could shake up Germany’s federal election in September, which until now had seen little discussion of climate.
A poll for Der Spiegel found only 26% thought Armin Laschet, the state premier who is the conservatives’ candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor, was a good crisis manager.
The campaign frontrunner was pilloried at the weekend for seeming to laugh while the German president delivered a solemn mourning speech.