Floods in Europe are the latest sign of a global warming crisis

The German flood warning system leaves it up to local authorities to decide what action to take, on the assumption that they are best informed of the local terrain and of the people or property in the path of a river. overflowing.

In some cases, it appears that the warnings were issued on time. In the town of Wuppertal, located in a valley crossed by the Wupper River, a crisis committee comprising police, firefighters and city officials used social media to urge people to stay home.

Early Thursday, shortly after midnight, they sounded a warning siren, which looks suspiciously like the one used during World War II, to alert residents to move to upper floors or to evacuate when the waters rose.

Wuppertal suffered property damage, such as flooding in the local opera orchestra pit, but no fatalities, city spokeswoman Martina Eckermann said.

But in other places the warnings came too late.

In the district of Ahrweiler in neighboring Rhineland-Palatinate, regional authorities issued their first warning to residents living near the banks of the river as it approached its all-time high of 3 meters, or nearly 10 feet. It wasn’t until three hours later, as the waters surpassed the previous flood record, that a state of emergency was declared.

By that time, many people had fled to the upper floors of their homes, but those who could not move fast enough died, such as 12 disabled residents of a care home in Sinzig, who did not been alerted in time to be helped from their land. -the rooms on the ground floor before the waters break.

“The warnings have arrived,” said Mr Kirsche of the German weather service. “But the question is, why the evacuations didn’t take place sooner?” This is something we have to think about.

Melissa Eddy has reported from Berlin, Jack Ewing from Frankfurt, Megan Specia from London and Steven Erlanger from Müsch, Germany.

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