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STORM

Properties damaged after storm ‘Burglind’ causes flooding in south Germany

The first storm of the year, Storm ‘Burglind’, forced dozens of people to leave their homes on Thursday and left damage to property amounting to hundreds of millions of euros.

Properties damaged after storm ‘Burglind’ causes flooding in south Germany
Flooding in the Black Forest early in the morning on Friday. Photo: DPA.

The German Insurance Association (GDV) estimates that the storm’s strong winds and rain contributed to a little less than half a billion euros in damages across the country.

Early on Wednesday morning the storm hit the west of Germany, bringing along with it hurricane-like gusts of over 120 km/h. As meteorologists predicted it then headed south; in the Black Forest wind speeds measured at almost 160 km/h.

On Wednesday evening, the German Meteorological Service (DWD) lifted their warnings against hurricane-like winds, but stated that many regions could continue to face persistent rain.

By then, police had reported flooded roads and basements in various parts of the country, such as in Hanover and in the district of Hildesheim in Lower Saxony.

In the south, heavy rains kept emergency services busy into Thursday. According to police in Freiburg, there were floods and landslides. In the Waldshut district in Baden-Württemberg, around 100 residents had to evacuate as a safety precaution and were taken to a gymnasium. Most of them have now returned to their homes.

In other parts of Baden-Württemberg, the police mainly had to deal with flooded roads and several houses were threatened by landslides. DWD had expected 70 to 120 litres of rain per square metre in parts in the Black Forest and in the Allgäu region until Friday morning. In Bavaria, creeks reportedly broke their banks. Police said basements and garages in Lindau on Lake Constance were full with water.

On the Moselle River shipping traffic was stopped as well as on parts of the Neckar River. In the next few days, shipping on the Rhine River could also be affected. Flooded basements were reported from many regions in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate too.

As for the weather forecast over the coming days, continuous rainfall is expected in some areas on Saturday; the Rhine River and the Moselle River are predicted to rise even higher. Many smaller rivers could also overflow.

But by Sunday and Monday DWD expect the rain to cease as much of Germany will see cloudy skies at the weekend with moderate highs of between 1C and 5C in the north and 4C and 9C elsewhere.

Image: DWD

For members

READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: Is it ever too hot to work from home in Germany?

Germany has regulations on working during a heatwave - but does that also apply to people who work remotely? We take a look.

Reader question: Is it ever too hot to work from home in Germany?

The number of people working from home shot up during the Covid pandemic, and though employees no longer have the right to work remotely by law, many have chosen to stick with more flexible arrangements and set up a home office at least part of the week.

This is great news for people who enjoy a lie-in more than a long commute, but there are some downsides. One major issue is that it’s not always clear how Germany’s strict employee protection rules actually apply in a home setting. The rules for working during a heatwave are a good example of this.

How does Germany regulate working in extreme heat? 

By law in Germany, employers are responsible for creating a safe environment for their workers. This means that they should try and keep the temperature below 26C at all times and are legally obliged to take action if the temperature goes above 30C. 

That could include putting blinds on the windows to prevent the glare of the sun, installing air conditioning systems or purchasing fans. In some cases – such as outdoor manual labour – it could also involve starting and finishing earlier in the day. 

And in really high temperatures, employers may simply decide to call the whole thing off and give their employees a ‘hitzefrei’ day – basically a heat-induced day off – to go and cool down in a lake. However, business owners are generally given free rein to decide how hot is too hot in this instance (except in the case of vulnerable workers). 

READ ALSO: Hitzefrei: Is it ever legally too hot to go to work or school in Germany?

Do the heat rules apply to ‘home office?’

Unfortunately not. In most cases in Germany, the company isn’t directly involved in setting up the workspace for an employee that works from home, aside from possibly providing a laptop or phone for remote use. 

“The occupational health and safety regulations regarding room temperature do not apply in this case,” labour law expert Meike Brecklinghaus told German business publication T3N. “This is because the employer does not have direct access to the employee’s workplace and in this respect cannot take remedial action.”

That means that on hot days, it’s the employee’s own responsibility to make sure the environment is suitable for working in. 

woman works from home in Germany

A woman works in her living room at home. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Naupold

One duty employers do have, however, is to instruct their workers about the best way to set up a healthy work environment at home, for example by giving guidance on how to regulate the temperature. 

“In the end, it is the employee’s responsibility to maintain his or her workplace in a condition in which he or she can perform his or her work without the threat of health impairments,” Brecklinghaus explained.

What can home office workers do in hot weather?

There are plenty of ways to keep flats cooler in the summer months, including purchasing your own fan, keeping curtains or blinds drawn and ventilating the rooms in the evening or early morning when the weather is cooler.

However, if heat is really becoming a problem, it’s a good idea to communicate this to your employer. This is especially important if you have a health condition that makes it more dangerous to work in hot weather. 

In some cases, you might be able to negotiate for the employer to pay for the purchase of a fan or mobile air conditioner as goodwill gesture. If possible, you could also arrange to travel to the office where the temperature should be better regulated.

Another option for early birds or night owls is to arrange more flexible working hours so you can avoid sweltering at your desk in the midday sun, although this of course depends on operational factors. 

READ ASO: Jobs in Germany: Should foreign workers join a union?

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