East Flanders in grip of natural disaster

25th August 2006, Comments 0 comments

25 August 2006, BRUSSELS — The exceptionally heavy rainfalls on Thursday night and Friday morning in East Flanders meet the criteria to be classified as a natural disaster, Interior Minister Patrick Dewael has confirmed.

25 August 2006

BRUSSELS — The exceptionally heavy rainfalls on Thursday night and Friday morning in East Flanders meet the criteria to be classified as a natural disaster, Interior Minister Patrick Dewael has confirmed. 

Large parts of the province of East Flanders were flooded on Friday after it was drenched in heavy downpours on Thursday night and Friday morning.

The federal government's disaster fund uses a standard of 60lr per square metre in 24 hours in order to classify flooding as a natural disaster.

In East Flanders, 100lr of rainfall per square metre in a period of just six hours, news agency Belga reported.

A classification of a natural disaster opens up the possibility for the public to be compensated by the government's natural disaster fund.

Fire brigade authorities were therefore kept extremely busy across the province on Friday and traffic delays were widespread.

The problems are situated primarily along the not navigable watercourses in the Meetjesland zone and in Ghent and the vicinity," provincial governor André Denys said.

"The situation was exceptionally serious in Maldegem-Kleit, where some 200 houses are threatened with flooding.

"The Civil Protection unit placed a 5,000lr pump at the scene and the fire brigade of other municipalities came to help."

The Ghent fire brigade has received since midnight on Thursday more than 500 calls for assistance.

Various city districts such as Sint-Amandsberg, Ledeberg, Gentbrugge and Drongen were hard hit by the storms.

The water in some areas was still 30cm deep at midday on Friday.

"There is no neighbourhood spared from flooding," fire brigade captain Dirk Lootens said.

"The streets are flooded, the sewers are blocked. We have to pump the water away, but can't get anywhere."

The fire brigade described the situation as "extreme" for the summer months. The Interior Ministry's emergency unit Civil Protection has been deployed.

In Maldegem, the Ede watercourse has breached its banks, leading to serious flooding in Maldegem-Kleit.

Fire brigade chief Alex Van Suyt said phase two of the disaster plan has been put into action.

"Some 30 homes have already gone under. About 100 are still threatened. The water at the furthest edges has fallen by 10cm, but is still 40cm deep," he said.

The Civil Protection unit arrived at the scene to help pump the water away, but there is not space to pump the water away.

Some 60 calls for assistance were placed with Zomergem fire authorities. "Six teams are deployed to fight the flooding. Sandbags are being transported and supplied," the fire chief said.

Most calls for assistance involved flooded cellars and garages. Various streets were also flooded. The area of Nevele and Ronse was also hard hit.

Meanwhile, traffic was also disrupted due to the heavy rainfalls. A large number of local roads were closed on Friday.

The roundabout of the E40 and E17 motorways in Zwijnaarde was partly under water.

On the Brussels-bound lanes on the E40, the right-hand lane was under water and long traffic delays were being reported.

Train traffic to and from Ghent was also delayed due to the flooding.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Belgian news

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