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Ahrtal disaster was unforeseeable – investigations stopped – News

  • The Koblenz public prosecutor’s office stopped the investigation in the Ahr Valley after the flood disaster in July 2021. The prosecutor admitted that there was no sufficient suspicion.
  • The flooding claimed at least 185 lives and caused severe damage in the region, including the loss of thousands of homes.
  • Although disaster protection in the Ahrweiler district had significant deficiencies, according to the public prosecutor’s office, these did not lead to criminal liability for those responsible.

The flood disaster in July 2021 in the German Ahr Valley traumatized people in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia. Flags all over Germany were at half-mast. Thousands of houses were destroyed and roads and bridges were washed away. One person is also still missing.

And 49 people also died in the floods in North Rhine-Westphalia. The Koblenz public prosecutor’s office has now stopped the investigation into the Ahr Valley disaster.

Old, dirty pile of pipes against a dull landscape background.

Legend:

As a result of the flood disaster from July 14th to 15th, 2021, 136 people died in Rhineland-Palatinate, 135 of them in the Ahr region and one person in the Trier area.

Reuters / Thilo Schmülgen

There was no sufficient suspicion against the former Ahr district administrator Jürgen Pföhler and an employee from the crisis team, said the head of the Koblenz public prosecutor’s office, Mario Mannweiler, at a media conference. There was an accusation that the Ahrweiler district had perhaps warned too late about the flood disaster.

For a period of over two and a half years, Pföhler and the employee were under investigation for negligent homicide and bodily harm. Pföhler and the employee have both denied through their lawyers that they had engaged in criminal conduct.

Inadequate crisis management does not constitute criminal liability

The investigating public prosecutor now came to the same conclusion. It was an extraordinary natural disaster, the extreme extent of which could not have been specifically predicted by those responsible in the Ahrweiler district.

“The 2021 flood far exceeded anything people had experienced before and was subjectively unimaginable for residents, those affected, emergency services and those responsible for operations alike,” argues the authorities in Koblenz.

It is not disputed that disaster protection in the region was inadequately organized. Nor that the management system had a whole series of deficiencies. However, from the perspective of the public prosecutor, these “quite considerable deficiencies” that an expert identified do not constitute criminal liability.

300 gigabytes of procedurally relevant files

The investigations had dragged on for a long time, also because they had a previously unknown dimension. According to the Rhineland-Palatinate State Criminal Police Office, more than 300 witnesses were interviewed. More than 20 terabytes of digital data were secured and evaluated, and more than 300 gigabytes were potentially relevant to the proceedings. There were also many searches. During the flood period, 15,500 emergency calls were secured at fire and police control centers.

Pföhler himself is no longer in office. The then district administrator had not been on duty since August 2021 due to illness and was finally retired in October 2021 at his own request due to incapacity to work.

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