Race to rescue missing hundreds after floods in Germany
Overreliance on digital tools, reluctance to order evacuations and lack of preparedness hampered prevention.
The first precise warning that Germany was about to be hit by a violent storm likely to unleash a potentially deadly flood reached the country’s Meteorological Service in the early hours of July 12, nearly three days before disaster struck.
It was Monday morning, and this government agency’s supercomputer, a machine the size of a hockey rink, had just generated a model forecast predicting with over 90% certainty and a precision down to 2 square kilometers that a string of West German communities would likely be befallen by severe flooding by late Wednesday.
The alarming forecast, which soon proved to be accurate, was picked up by the agency’s on-duty meteorologist who promptly triggered the country’s sophisticated flood alert system at 6 a.m., notifying at once the government, the emergency services, the police and key media about the looming catastrophe.