German politicians have warned that conspiracy theorists are exploiting the country”s flood-damaged areas and spreading disinformation.
Police in the worst-affected regions have said they were aware of right-wing extremists posing as volunteers helping with the relief effort.
Officers will take action against anyone attempting to “abuse the situation for political ends under the guise of helping,” they said.
The THW disaster aid agency has reported cases in which volunteers were insulted and garbage was thrown at their vehicles.
Meanwhile, vehicles with loudspeakers have reportedly been spreading false rumours that the police and rescuers were reducing their deployment.
But police in Koblenz in Rhineland-Palatinate — the state most affected by the floods — tweeted on Thursday to deny the claims.
On Wednesday, German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer denounced the attempts to spread false information.
“These people are contributing to aggravating and exploiting the tense situation and the completely understandable uncertainty of the people affected,” Demmer told reporters in Berlin.
“With their actions, they are also undermining trust in the many volunteer helpers, the collective management of the situation and action by the state.”
“We won’t tolerate such attacks on helpers, and we also won’t tolerate extremist forces exploiting the situation,” she added.
Last week’s floods in western Europe have killed at least 177 people in Germany, while more than 150 others still remain missing.
Repairing the extensive damage is expected to be a long task, but Germany has received support from a number of neighbouring countries
However, officials say there has also been an increasing number of appeals for online donations attributed to the anti-mask demonstrators.
Authorities in the region also say they have closed down a children’s home in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, which was suspected of being used by members of the movement.
“I can only note with disgust that people are trying to profit from people’s suffering,” said Günter Krings, parliamentary state secretary at the interior ministry, in an interview with RND newspaper.
Green MP Konstantin von Notz has called the actions of anti-mask activists at the disaster site “shameful”.
Germany has previously seen violent demonstrations from anti-vaccine voices at the height of pandemic restrictions.
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