One year after the flood of the century: Many are building again in the same place – the economy

A good year has passed since the tranquil Ahr Valley has become a disaster area. On the night of July 14-15, 2021, rains made entire regions uninhabitable. Ahr and Erft smashed their banks, taking bridges, houses and residents with them. Over 180 people lost their lives. Property damage was in the billions.

For German insurers, the Bernda flood disaster was the worst natural disaster since records hit, Jörg Asmussen, CEO of the German Insurance Company (GDV) said Wednesday in Berlin. And not only the insurance industry, but also climate scientists and politicians are warning: this will not be the last.

Climate change is making extreme weather events more frequent: droughts in the east, heavy rains in the west. Many homeowners are not prepared for this. Their buildings are not ready for this, and neither are their insurance companies. You have protection against storms and fire, but not against heavy rain or flooding.

These risks must be insured separately. Many do without it: only every second apartment building has this element protection, although the flood temporarily triggered a slight boom. But it’s gone again. So is the discussion on flood protection.

It is clear to everyone: there cannot be “business as usual”. “We need to invest a lot more in prevention,” says Annegret Thieken, professor of natural hazard research at the University of Potsdam. He is part of a team of scientists accompanying the reconstruction work in flooded areas.

What he observes is depressing: “Only 34 buildings have not been rebuilt in their former places,” reports Thieken. The rest is right where the water flooded the basement and lounges last year. There is no lack of insight, says the expert. But many homeowners would not be able to exchange their property for a more secure one.

The flooding caused EUR 33 billion in damage

Total flood damage is estimated at EUR 33 billion, of which 8.5 billion is attributable to insurers. To date, companies have paid out five billion euros.

[Wenn Sie aktuelle Nachrichten aus Berlin, Deutschland und der Welt live auf Ihr Handy haben wollen, empfehlen wir Ihnen unsere App, die Sie hier für Apple- und Android-Geräte herunterladen können.]

Almost a quarter of the issues have yet to be settled as there are no crafting invoices or the reconstruction has yet to be completed. This is due to the lack of materials and skilled workers.

The longer it lasts, the more expensive it becomes for insurers as they replace the new home value and thus run the risk of inflation. New radiators today are much more expensive than in August last year.

[Was die Versicherung zahlt: Viele Naturkatastrophen sind nicht abgedeckt – T+]

“Who knows how much a door frame will cost next week?” Says Sabine Krummenerl, Chairwoman of the GDV Private Client Committee. Homeowner insurance premiums are likely to rise.

EUR 210,000 in damages to the family home

The destructive power of the floods on Ahr and Erft is leading to a whole new dimension of damage: in the affected areas, more than 2,000 detached houses with insured damage of over € 100,000 had to be repaired. In the Ahrweiler County, the average damage was € 210,000 per residential building. This is the highest average damage ever measured for a residential building. Every fourth house in the Euskirchen district was damaged.

Once upon a time there was a home here: Brothers Gerd and Bernd Gasper (right) are standing in their former place …Photo: dpa / Boris Roessler

“A quarter of those affected do not know how to better build their home,” says expert Thieken from on-site surveys. Before the flood, more than 70 percent of the population would have had no idea they were living in a flood-prone area. The hazard maps are out of date, and there is no national natural hazard portal for every citizen to see what their situation is like.

An area the size of 76 football pitches is sealed daily

New buildings are still allowed in hazardous areas. And every day 54 hectares in Germany are sealed so that no more water can leak there – that’s equivalent to 76 football pitches. Insurers are demanding a ban on building new facilities in flood-prone areas and better structural changes. “Sometimes it is enough if buildings are not built on a ground level, but on a small base,” says Asmussen.

Jörg Asmussen, CEO of an insurance company, is against compulsory insurance.Photo: Joerg Carstensen

Is insurance now compulsory?

What insurers do not want at all is an idea that is finding more and more friends in politics: compulsory natural hazard insurance. Asmussen thinks this is not helping because it does not create an incentive to protect against natural hazards. Instead, a spiral of rising claims and rising premiums is being set in motion. Instead, insurers only want to offer new contracts with protection against natural hazards. All existing policies are to be converted at the same time. Customers should be able to object to the changeover to the euro.

[Wie geht es den Menschen im Ahrtal? Lesen Sie eine Reportage aus dem Krisengebiet- T+]

The prime ministers of the federal states see it differently. They are tired of using taxpayers’ money for filing because homeowners have no insurance. Federal and state governments raised about 30 billion euros in reconstruction aid last year. If everyone is insured, they hope that someday the state Samaritan service will no longer be needed.

After similar considerations always failed due to constitutional concerns in the past, the heads of the federal states have now issued a scrutiny order to the Federal Ministry of Justice. Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) has to deliver by the end of the year. You are in contact with other affected federal departments, the ministry said upon request.

The Federal Ministry of the Environment is in favor of this

The Federal Ministry of the Environment generally likes the idea of ​​compulsory insurance. “I have sympathy for compulsory insurance,” said Secretary of State Christiane Rohleder in the Daily Mirror. However, the devil is in the details. For compulsory insurance to really help, the deduction should not be too high.

At the same time, however, the burden of contributions should not be too high. Accordingly, it will be necessary to carefully examine how an appropriate insurance obligation could be designed. “In any case, it is important that more buildings are insured against natural hazards,” says the green politician. Nobody should feel safe. “As extreme weather conditions are exacerbated by the climate crisis, damage to buildings can occur anywhere in Germany,” warns Rohleder.

Leave a Comment