August 3, 2021

in Belgium, elected officials denounce the limited resources of rescuers

The balance sheet continues to grow heavier. In Belgium, the weekend floods caused at least 31 deaths, and 163 people were still missing on Sunday evening, mostly in Wallonia. The research is concentrated in the province of Liège, the most affected, but also in those of Namur and Luxembourg. All the east of the country is still under the rubble. The victims numbered in the thousands and 37,000 people were still without electricity. “It may take us ten years to rebuild everything”, estimates Fabien Beltran, burgomaster of Trooz, one of these towns sacked by the unleashing of the Vesdre, a sub-tributary of the Meuse.

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Even if the time has come for meditation and aid to disaster victims, initial criticisms are being heard. The quantities of water which fell on Belgium were certainly phenomenal. But faced with the flood, did the authorities react in time? “We cried for help. Initially, not many people realized the extent of the problem, regrets Fabien Beltran. It took ten to twelve hours for the help to gradually kick in. In twelve hours, the water had gone from one meter in height to two meters, even four meters. ”

“Ridiculous means”

The burgomaster felt “Helpless” in front of the hundreds of inhabitants who called him, often refugees on their roofs, in the driving rain, and to whom he could not bring assistance. “The firefighters and the police came, but their resources were insufficient. There were heroic acts in this crisis but structurally, completely lacking ”, adds Etienne Vendy, president of the public social action center (CPAS) in Trooz. The inhabitants of the village, abandoned, therefore had to fend for themselves, or with the help of neighbors, to try to extricate themselves from their homes.

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“After several hours, the soldiers finally arrived”, resumes Etienne Vendy. The current was too strong to launch boat rescues. “They didn’t go by helicopter either, because it was raining., declares, not without bitterness, Fabien Beltran. If the helicopters don’t go out in the rain, then in Belgium when do they go out? “

As for civil protection, “They have ridiculous means”, concludes the president of the CPAS. This federal rescue service is at the heart of one of the most virulent controversies of this crisis. In 2017, Jan Jambon, the interior minister in Charles Michel’s government, had divided the number of barracks by three and reduced the workforce by 30%. Help services that have been sorely lacking in recent days.

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