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Flood-battered Germany approves $470 million relief package

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet approves a huge emergency aid package for flood-stricken regions of Germany and says billions will be needed to rebuild homes, businesses and vital infrastructure.

A week into the region’s worst flooding disaster in living memory, which has killed at least 170 in Germany and 31 in Belgium, the right-left “grand coalition” government unlocks some 400 million euros ($470 million) in immediate relief.

Half will come from the federal government of Europe’s top economy and the rest from the 16 regional states, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz says.

“We will make sure that life can go on,” Scholz tells reporters in Berlin.

He says the coming months will bring a “billions-strong reconstruction program to clear the devastation and restore infrastructure” including roads, bridges and railways.

“We will rebuild — rebuild businesses, rebuild factories, rebuild buildings,” he says.

The damage caused by the floods is likely to cost the insurance industry up to five billion euros ($5.9 billion), the GDV insurance industry association says, calling the disaster “one of the most devastating storms in recent history.”

However, the real cost is likely to be much higher as less than half of Germans in the affected states are insured against heavy rain and floods, the association adds.

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