German state premier says sorry for laughing while at flood-hit town

BERLIN: German chancellor candidate Armin Laschet, the front runner in the race to succeed Ms Angela Merkel, was forced to apologise on Saturday after he was caught on camera laughing during a visit to a flood-ravaged town.

Mr Laschet, the premier of hard-hit North-Rhine Westphalia state, was seen chatting and joking in the background with several people while German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was expressing sympathy for victims in Erftstadt town.

At one point in the clip, Mr Laschet bursts out laughing for several seconds.

"Laschet laughs while the country cries," the best-selling Bild Daily said on its website.

Mr Laschet later apologised on Twitter, saying he was deeply moved by the suffering of the flood victims and regretted "the impression that was given by a conversation situation".

"This was inappropriate and I'm sorry," he said.

The death toll from devastating floods has risen to 156 in Germany, the police said yesterday morning.

In Rhineland-Palatinate state alone, one of the worst-hit regions in western Germany, the police reported 110 dead, up from 98 previously.

"It is feared that other victims will be added," the police said in their statement, which also gave at least 670 injured in the region alone. - AFP