The devastating floods in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia have so far cost the lives of more than 80 people.

The full extent of the disaster could not be foreseen on Thursday evening either.

Entire towns were flooded, houses washed away, people locked in basements, areas evacuated.

More than 1000 people are still missing.

Bernd Freytag

Business correspondent Rhein-Neckar-Saar based in Mainz.

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Philipp Krohn

Editor in business, responsible for “People and Business”.

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While those affected continue to fear for relatives, others are faced with the question of the economic damage.

In the Ahrweiler district, 100 houses are said to have been destroyed by the floods.

The state government of Rhineland-Palatinate promised emergency aid of 50 million euros, and NRW state chief and CDU chancellor candidate Armin Laschet has promised aid to those affected.

However, state aid alone will hardly be enough to bear the economic consequences for all those affected.

Not insured

After the floods, the insurance industry promised that this year would be one of the most damaging since 2013. In addition to the floods, the storms and precipitation a few weeks ago also contributed to this. “As early as June, heavy rain and hail caused an estimated insured loss of 1.7 billion euros. We will probably have a current loss estimate in the next week, ”said the general manager of the GDV insurance association, Jörg Asmussen, on Thursday.

For many years the association has been campaigning for households to take out insurance against natural hazards in addition to the usual residential building insurance, which covers financial damage from storms and hail. "It is gratifying that almost half of the building owners now have protection from other natural hazards," said Asmussen a few days ago. The rate is now 46 percent. “But for the others, the rule is that they should review and adjust their insurance coverage.” The reinsurer Munich Re sees not only climate change but also socio-economic changes as the cause of the damage. "That means, in the affected areas, the density and the value of real estate and infrastructure, the so-called exposures," said a spokesman. In April, the GDV submitted an investigationwhich of the 50 largest German cities are most at risk from heavy rain. The currently badly affected city of Wuppertal landed in first place.

Companies have been lucky so far

Companies have largely gotten off lightly so far, but levels are still rising in many rivers.

According to forecasts by the German Weather Service, the strong industrial regions on the Rhine can only expect the water to reach its apex in the next few days.

The chemical company BASF, which operates the world's largest chemical site directly on the banks of the Rhine in Ludwigshafen, does not assume, according to a spokeswoman, that there will be production problems.

In the Knapsack Chemical Park in Hürth near Cologne, a sewage system overflowed, causing local residents to suffer skin irritation.

The storm also caused difficulties in other “chemical parks”. “We cannot rule out that small amounts of hydrocarbons have entered the Rhine. The authorities have been informed, ”said a spokesman for Shell Germany, which is located in the Rhineland energy and chemical park in the south of Cologne. “In the end we managed it well, but these won't be the last heavy rain events. We have to see what we can take away from it for the future. "

At the locations of the industrial park operator Currenta in Leverkusen and Dormagen, the collection capacities were sufficient, the company announced on request. “We are not aware of any damage. Barriers have protected the mechanical engineering company Schmale in Altena, North Rhine-Westphalia, so the company's employees from one of the places in the state hardest hit by the storm helped their colleagues to pump out their cellars on Thursday.

NRW Prime Minister Laschet visited the completely flooded town of Altena on Thursday morning. Automotive suppliers had suffered a total write-off, he later announced at a press conference in Hagen. The Wupper flows along the plant of the pharmaceutical and chemical company Bayer in Wuppertal, where the company also wants to manufacture vaccines in the future. Although the river has reached the highest level in its history, the tidal wave feared on Thursday night due to the overflow of the dam nearby did not occur.

The production site is not affected, we are continuing to monitor the situation, ”said a Bayer spokeswoman on request. Basements in administration buildings were filled with water, but the fire brigade on the site quickly helped with pumps. Other companies in the city did not get off so lightly: "I am assuming major damage, we cannot yet quantify it," said Thomas Wängler from the Bergische Chamber of Commerce and Industry.