Germany plans to implement emergency text message warning service
Natalie Carney in Munich

Germany's interior minister has announced a SMS messaging system that will make it possible to send out emergency text alerts to all mobile network users in an emergency area after the country was hit by the worst floods in 60 years.

While such a warning service has been used by other countries for decades, Germany has resisted its use over privacy concerns. 

According to experts, Germany's emergency SMS system will be operational in the next 12-18 months.




Clean-up operation begins

Emergency power generators, construction dryers and kids toys - those were some of the items Sebastian Frenkel, along with dozens of volunteers, unloaded from trucks and trailers full of donations for the community of Erftstadt, which was hit by catastrophic floods on July 15.

Frenkel, from Potsdam, near Berlin, always had a love for the western Eifel region of Germany, so when it was struck by the country's worst natural disaster in decades, killing at least 180 people, he sprang into action, initiating a crowdfunding campaigning.

A few days later, that campaigned had raised $35,314. With that money, he bought machinery and other equipment to help with the mammoth clear-up efforts.

"We are still moved after the drive," shared Frenkel, who personally drove the donations the 570 kilometers to Erftstadt. "There are no roads anymore, no bridges. We saw some harsh images in Schuld, in Ahrweiler."

Volunteers have been coming out from everywhere to help in the relief efforts.


Sebastian Frenkel, along with dozens of volunteers have raised money to help with the clean-up efforts. /AFP

Sebastian Frenkel, along with dozens of volunteers have raised money to help with the clean-up efforts. /AFP

Did the government warning system fail?

The discussion over the German government's preparedness and response is still a hot topic just months before the federal elections in September.

One of the country's national papers recently pointed the finger straight at the government, writing that "disaster management failed to warn citizens. Barely functioning sirens, no early evacuations and data protection prevented warning text messages to all affected citizens."

The devastating floods, which also hit neighboring Belgium and The Netherlands,  caused the deaths of more than 180 people in Germany alone and is expected to cost the country more than six billion euros ($7.06 billion) to rebuild.

Some parts of western Germany were hit by catastrophic floods on July 15. /AFP

Some parts of western Germany were hit by catastrophic floods on July 15. /AFP


Vineyards fearful of future

Acts of solidarity in Germany's competitive winemaking industry has helped those who own vineyards in the Ahr valley, one of the regions most severely affected, keep spirits high says Elmar Sermann.

His family has been growing wine in the area for almost 300 years.

"It's just incredible," he says. "The help that we have been offered from other winemakers in the region, people saying they have a press spare, or tanks or pumps. I think that with all this goodwill we will make it again."

Yet, others are not so optimistic.

Many of the 460 members of the Mayschoss-Altenahr wine cooperative, also near the Ahr river in western Germany, were affected by the rushing waters that flooded cellars and vineyards.

Alina Sonntag, a management assistant at the cooperative, said the disaster threatened to end what is believed to be the oldest such organization in the world at more than 150 years old.

"It is devastatingly threatening to the existence (of our business)" Sonntag admits. "The barrels that were still in the cellar, where there was actually wine in them, are probably no longer usable. We're now trying to save what can be saved. It affects our very substance, that's for sure."


Search Trends