According to the British expert Hannah Cloke, the European flood warning system EFAS gave the first indication of a possible extreme event in the Rhineland a few days before the flood disaster in mid-July.

On July 10, 2021, EFAS forecast a flood that occurs once in 20 years with a probability of 22 percent for the Rhine basin, said the hydrology professor as a witness on Friday in the investigative committee of the NRW state parliament in Düsseldorf.

This information was still uncertain, but you should be particularly careful in such a case, she explained.

That would be the time when the national competent authorities look at some additional information in order to get a clearer picture of the situation.

She has no indication of how the information made available by EFAS was ultimately used by the relevant national and local authorities.

EFAS partners received warnings.

They could then independently access the warning system's web portal and continue working there.

"We have to admit that the system has failed overall"

"When so many people die, we have to admit that the system has failed as a whole," the expert reiterated the criticism she had already expressed, referring to the many dead.

49 people died in North Rhine-Westphalia alone.

She also emphasized that this criticism does not refer to certain parts of North Rhine-Westphalia.

They did not investigate how the different parts of the system worked in the case of the flood disaster in July.

Cellular warning

In the event of a possible disaster, the population should in future be warned via mass messages to all cell phones.

On Friday, a good four months after the flood disaster, the Federal Council approved a government ordinance on cell broadcast, especially in western Germany.

The system enables the authorities to send a warning to all cell phone users who are currently in a certain area.

Even if they don't use smartphones or have a foreign cell phone number.

This system is already used in many European countries, for example to warn of forest fires.

The legal basis for the regulation is a change in the Telecommunications Act.

It provides for new statutory obligations for mobile network operators.

The requirements for the introduction of cell broadcast by the mobile network operators and the connection to the federal modular warning system are currently being defined by the Federal Network Agency.

The acting Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU) said that with cell broadcast, people could be warned more easily, quickly and precisely in emergencies and disasters.

The ministry had drawn up the cell phone warning ordinance.

The organizational framework includes ensuring that warnings can be received and processed at any time.

According to the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK), the procedure could be used from the end of 2022.

After heavy rain, numerous villages were flooded in mid-July.

183 people died, most of them in Rhineland-Palatinate.

It later emerged that warnings of the disaster were too late or insufficiently urgent in some affected communities.

The BBK relies on a "warning mix" that previously included sirens, announcements on the radio, warnings via app and on announcement boards.

However, the responsibility for disaster control in peacetime does not lie with the federal government, but with the federal states.