Green Party environment minister worried more about her image than raising the alarm over last year’s German floods

Former Rhineland-Palatinate state Environment Minister Anne Spiegel (Green Party) was not concerned with the plight of the population during last year’s severe flood disaster in the Ahr Valley, but about her image. This has been evidenced by recently published emails and chat transcripts. Spiegel has since risen to become federal Minister for Family Affairs in the traffic light coalition government of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) headed by Olaf Scholz (SPD).

The flood disaster, which claimed well over 200 lives, hit parts of North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, the Netherlands and Belgium from July 14 to 15. In the Ahr Valley in Rhineland-Palatinate alone, 134 people were killed and over 700 injured. The destruction of houses, apartments, businesses, roads, bridges and central infrastructure such as water and electricity supply was and remains devastating.

The WSWS wrote on August 4: “The fact that the floods killed so many people and caused such devastating damage is a direct result of the criminal inaction of government at all levels. Well before people were caught in the deadly waters, governments and authorities had been warned. But they remained inactive and refused to initiate evacuations and protective measures. They did not even inform the population about the approaching danger.”

This assessment is confirmed by a report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) on March 9. The newspaper obtained confidential files from the committee of enquiry set up by the Rhineland-Palatinate state legislature on the flood disaster in the Ahr Valley. These contain emails and chat transcripts from Spiegel, who was climate and environment minister in the state government at the time of the flood.

Clean-up work in the Ahr Valley (WSWS media)

On the morning of July 15, the extent of the destruction caused by the flood could only be guessed at. As the deluge unfolded, houses were destroyed; cars were left hanging in trees; countless uprooted trees and destroyed cars clogged the roads, as far as they had not been destroyed; people were missing, some of whom had been taken by surprise and drowned or washed away by the floodwater while sleeping in their houses; some were still holding out on the roofs of their houses, where they had rescued themselves during the night. However, the Environment Ministry press office and Spiegel herself were mainly concerned about their own image.

In a text message sent by a Ministry of the Environment employee to Spiegel, and almost identically to her press spokesman at the time, Dietmar Brück, it was said that the situation was “very serious,” that a disaster situation had been declared in several districts and that people were missing.

The response was not to set everything in motion to hurry to the aid of the distressed, to help them find the missing and injured, to organise emergency shelters, to provide medical care and to clean up the damage. Rather, these tasks were taken over by thousands of volunteers over the next few weeks.

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