Police in western Germany raided offices and homes on Tuesday in connection with the floods last summer in which more than 180 people died and hundreds more were injured.
The public prosecutor’s office in Cologne coordinated the searches that were executed by 140 police officers and involved more than 20 offices and homes, German news agency dpa reported.
Investigations were allegedly focusing on the the owner and lessor of an opencast mine in Erftstadt, near the city of Cologne, as well as five people of the operating company and four people with the regional district council, dpa reported. The suspects are between 29 and 65 years old. Their names were not given in line with German privacy policies.
The public prosecutor’s office is investigating them on suspicion of negligently causing a flood by omission, endangering construction and violating the country' s federal mining act, dpa reported. According to the investigation, there might not have been sufficient flood protection which could have contributed to the intrusion of large amounts of water into the gravel pit during the night of July 16.
"There is a suspicion that the defendants could and should have recognized the conditions at the flood protection embankment and the pit's embankments due to their professional involvement with the gravel pit, and should have taken care if it,” Cologne senior public prosecutor Ulrich Bremer said, according to dpa.
During the July floods, the grounds near a gravel pit on the River Erft slipped away after heavy rain had flooded the pit. Several buildings were subsequently swept away, but nobody was killed, dpa reported.
Heavy rainfall had turned small streams into raging torrents, sweeping away people, houses, bridges and cars.
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