Senior German state official quits over 2021 flood response

Oct 12, 2022, 3:40 AM | Updated: 8:25 am
FILE - The Ahr river floats past destroyed houses in Insul, Germany, Thursday, July 15, 2021. Germa...

FILE - The Ahr river floats past destroyed houses in Insul, Germany, Thursday, July 15, 2021. Germany's national railway on Monday resumed train service to a western valley that was devastated by flooding in mid-July following extensive repair work. The narrow Ahr valley, near Bonn, suffered the worst destruction in the July 14-15 floods which left more than 180 people dead in Germany and also claimed lives in neighboring Belgium. Heavy rainfall turned small streams into raging torrents, sweeping away houses, bridges and cars. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File)

(AP Photo/Michael Probst, File)

BERLIN (AP) — A senior German state official announced his resignation Wednesday amid questions over his management of deadly floods that hit his region last year.

Roger Lewentz, the interior minister of the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate for the past 11 years, said he was “taking the political responsibility for mistakes that were made in my area of responsibility.”

More than 230 people died in Germany and neighboring Belgium in the floods on July 14, 2021. The hardest-hit area was Rhineland-Palatinate’s Ahr valley, a wine-growing region south of Cologne where at least 134 people died when heavy rain turned streams into raging torrents that swept away houses, roads and bridges.

Lewentz has come under mounting pressure in recent weeks following the emergence of a previously unknown video taken from a police helicopter on the evening of the floods that showed houses swamped by the rising water and people begging for help. It also emerged that a written police report on the situation arrived at Lewentz’s ministry shortly after midnight.

Lewentz, a member of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats, said he didn’t have the video and the report on the night of the floods, but said it was “a particularly demanding night” for his ministry’s emergency center.

He conceded that he was no longer able to convince people with his arguments at a time when the fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine means a security minister needs to be able to concentrate fully on the current risks.

Lewentz’s departure follows the resignation from the German federal government in April of Anne Spiegel, who was Rhineland-Palatinate’s environment minister and deputy governor at the time of the floods.

Spiegel, who briefly served as Scholz’s minister for families and women, quit after it emerged that she went on a long family vacation 10 days after the floods.

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Senior German state official quits over 2021 flood response