A commission of inquiry in the Rhineland-Palatinate state parliament has now started work to tackle the flood disaster in Rhineland-Palatinate. The committee urges that this is clarified as soon as possible.
In a first step, all files and digital communication must be submitted to the committee by November 15 until the night of the flood on July 14, said committee chair Martin Haller (SPD) after the meeting.
Files, electronic files and communication via mobile phone requested
The request for release of the documents is addressed to all agencies “as far as there is legal oversight from the state,” explains Haller. For files under federal supervision, the federal government can be asked for administrative assistance. It is about documents in folders, about electronic files, but also about mobile phone communication – “anything that can illuminate the subject of research”.
The initially envisaged study period “until the night of the flood” will not always be “clearly delineated over time,” Haller admitted. The “Flood Disasters Inquiry” wanted to work as quickly and thoroughly as possible – so it decided to prioritize this.
In this first, private meeting, only the work of the committee was prepared. It is about education about the processes around the flood night and about political responsibility. The chairman of the CDU faction, Gordon Schnieder, said human errors had been made. The commission of inquiry must clarify whether the government has failed to act during the flood disaster and who is responsible for this.
About two months after the tidal wave, the central question is how it could have come to this: when were the first warnings received? Wasn’t there enough evidence of the accident?
Committee should work fast
“The locals expect quick answers,” Haller says. “You wake up in the disaster in the morning, live in the disaster and lie down in the disaster at night.” Still, it will probably be several weeks before the first testimony. The end is not yet in sight, also because new files are constantly being created.
Last week, the Rhineland-Palatinate parliament decided on the commission of inquiry with the votes of the opposition factions of the CDU, AfD and Free Voters. The CDU faction had submitted an application to the committee.
Political responsibility also plays a role
The circumstances of the flood disaster in Rhineland-Palatinate are also being discussed in an expert committee of inquiry. However, a committee of inquiry is considered to be Parliament’s most rigorous tool. The agency has the right to question witnesses and to inspect files.
On 14 and 15 July 2021, unimaginable amounts of rain led to the worst natural disaster in the history of Rhineland-Palatinate. We show the affected places on our map.
The authorities have been criticized after the flood for late and lack of warnings. The public prosecutor in Koblenz is investigating the district administrator of the district of Ahrweiler, Jürgen Pföhler (CDU). It concerns the initial suspicion of culpable homicide and negligent bodily harm.