German Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel has broken her pelvis in a cross-country skiing accident and is walking with the help of crutches, forcing her to call off some foreign visits and official appointments.
Merkel fell while skiing over the Christmas holiday. What she first thought was heavy bruising turned out to be a partial fracture, meaning she must take it easy for three weeks and work from home where possible, her spokesman Steffen Seibert said yesterday.
The news comes a week after Germany was shocked by the far more serious skiing accident of former Formula One champion Michael Schumacher, who is in critical condition in France.
"The chancellor is of course able to work and is in full communication," said Seibert. He added that Merkel's accident occurred "at low speed".
The 59-year-old chancellor, a keen hiker who has said she preferred cross-country to downhill skiing, has postponed a visit to Warsaw scheduled for tomorrow and a meeting in Berlin with Luxembourg's new prime minister, Xavier Bettel.
But she will lead her first cabinet meeting of the year tomorrow. The chancellor began her third term last month after sealing a "grand coalition" of her conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats.
The delay before the injury was made public highlights the private nature of a German leader's vacation time. Whereas a US president is accompanied by a pool of media wherever he goes, a German chancellor vacations without the public being told where she is.
Immediately after the accident, Merkel initially assumed that the fall caused "only a bruise, even though it already was painful", Seibert said. She returned to Berlin on December 30 to record her televised New Year's address still thinking she was bruised.
Doctors told her last Friday it was "a bit more than that", Seibert said.