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CRIME

Cologne to flood metro tunnel as Rhine rises

Cologne city officials announced on Friday that they would flood a metro tunnel under construction over the weekend to keep stable as water levels rise rapidly in the Rhine River due to spring snowmelt.

Cologne to flood metro tunnel as Rhine rises
Workers prep the Heumarkt station for flooding on Friday. Photo: DPA

The dramatic plan is meant to ensure the central Heumarkt does not collapse by bolstering concrete walls with counter pressure from some 14.5 million litres of water. The city said there was no danger the site could overflow and flood nearby buildings.

Underground building experts have already prepared the site with special scaffolding to hold hoses, which will be used to flood the site with river water on Saturday afternoon.

So far the Rhine has been rising an average of two centimetres per hour, floodwater experts reported on Friday.

Authorities have already built a separation wall between the Rathaus and Heumarkt station construction sites in preparation for the emergency flooding, a measure meant to keep the water from flooding the entire metro tunnel.

The decision to take action follows numerous reports of shoddy building practices on the underground line.

Investigators into the deadly March 3, 2009 collapse of the city’s historic archive building believe contractors cut corners on the supporting walls of the metro tunnel not only near the construction site near Waidmarkt, but also near the Rathaus and Heumarkt stations.

An additional 28 falsified records for underground metro construction at various sites across the city have been discovered, pointing towards organised crime, an investigation insider told daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger last week.

The building scandal spread this week to the nearby city of Düsseldorf, where experts have discovered falsified protocols and metal anchors that had not been installed properly at six different underground metro construction sites on the U-Bahn Wehrhahn line.

Düsseldorf city building department head Gregor Bonin told journalists there were clear indications that similar incidents were perpetrated by the same people as in Cologne – employees of a company called Bilfinger Berger – and those under suspicion have been suspended from their duties.

Because no safety danger has been detected in relation to these practices, construction of the U-Bahn line will continue as planned, he said.

Cities that may have worked with Bilfinger Berger on U-Bahn construction in the last 40 years have been asked to file reports to the investigating authorities.

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GERMANY AND ISRAEL

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.

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