BERLIN (AP) – A senior German state official announced his resignation yesterday amid questions over his management of deadly floods that hit his region last year.
Interior Minister of the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate for the past 11 years Roger Lewentz said he was “taking the political responsibility for mistakes that were made in my area of responsibility”.
Over 230 people died in Germany and neighbouring Belgium in the floods on July 14, 2021.
The hardest-hit area was Rhineland-Palatinate’s Ahr valley, a 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 centre-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 centre.
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.