Flood disaster in the Ahr Valley: After allegations of flood videos: Rhineland-Palatinate Interior Minister Roger Lewentz resigns

After allegations in connection with the disclosure of helicopter videos from the night of the flood disaster in the Ahr Valley in July 2021, the Rhineland-Palatinate Interior Minister Roger Lewentz (SPD) resigned from his post.

Flood disaster in the Ahr Valley: After allegations of flood videos: Rhineland-Palatinate Interior Minister Roger Lewentz resigns

After allegations in connection with the disclosure of helicopter videos from the night of the flood disaster in the Ahr Valley in July 2021, the Rhineland-Palatinate Interior Minister Roger Lewentz (SPD) resigned from his post. She accepted his resignation, Prime Minister Malu Dreyer (SPD) told journalists in Mainz on Wednesday. Lewentz had recently been under a lot of pressure because of the videos, to which he is said not to have reacted adequately.

The press date of Dreyer and Lewentz was announced at short notice on Wednesday. At the request of the opposition factions of the CDU and Free Voters in the state parliament, a debate on Lewentz's role and responsibility during the flood disaster was scheduled for the afternoon.

"Today I take political responsibility for mistakes made in my area of ​​responsibility," said the SPD politician on Wednesday in Mainz. Prime Minister Malu Dreyer (SPD) will soon announce the successor to Lewentz. "He will remain in office for a few more days," she said, adding: "You can assume that I will make public who is following Roger Lewentz in the next few days."

When asked about his chairmanship of the SPD in Rhineland-Palatinate, Lewentz said he was elected until the next party conference in 2023. He added: "I'm taking a break now and will then discuss it with the committees."

In September, videos from a police helicopter that were recorded on July 14 and in the early morning of July 15, 2021 appeared in the state parliament’s investigative committee on the flood. It showed flooded streets and houses, and people using flashlights to send SOS signals to the helicopter.

The videos were shown to the committee of inquiry in a closed session. This put Lewentz under pressure because it was not clear when he had known about them. After the videos became known, the ministry announced that an operational diary of the helicopter squadron had been sent to the committee of inquiry in February 2022.

Normally, the operation should have been broadcast live to the police headquarters. However, this was not technically possible. According to the findings of the committee of inquiry, the videos and photos were sent to the police headquarters and to the situation center in the interior committee. The pictures and the descriptions of the helicopter crew were included in the assessment of the situation.

According to their own statements, the Koblenz public prosecutor's office had no prior knowledge of the videos either. Since August 2021, she has been investigating the former district administrator of the Ahrweiler district, Jürgen Pföhler (CDU), and another member of the crisis team because of the initial suspicion of negligent killing in office through omission.

In mid-July 2021, heavy rainfall triggered catastrophic flooding on rivers in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia. Many communities, especially in the Ahr Valley, were devastated. In Rhineland-Palatinate, 134 people died in connection with the flood. In North Rhine-Westphalia there were 48 dead. The Rhineland-Palatinate committee of inquiry has been working since October 2021.

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