Flanders starts storm clean-up operation

5th July 2005, Comments 0 comments

5 July 2005, BRUSSELS — The heaviest rainfall in seven years saw more than 4,000 calls for assistance placed with emergency services in the Flanders region of Belgium on Monday.

5 July 2005

BRUSSELS — The heaviest rainfall in seven years saw more than 4,000 calls for assistance placed with emergency services in the Flanders region of Belgium on Monday.

The storm broke on Sunday night and raged for much of the night and throughout Monday. The West Flanders region was the hardest hit, newspaper 'Het Laatste Nieuws' reported on Tuesday.

Some 3,000 telephone calls were lodged with fire fighters to pump cellars dry, clear flooded streets of storm water and evacuate residents.

Only half of the calls for assistance could be responded to immediately. The Belgian army was eventually deployed to fight the flooding as the West Flanders alarm plan was moved into phase three.

The military will remain at the disposal of authorities in coming days because the threat of flooding has not totally subsided. An extra 60 soldiers were to be deployed in West Flanders on Tuesday, on top of the 60 deployed on Monday.

"The water is now flowing away, but we must take care that the bigger rivers do not breach their banks," West Flanders governor Paul Breyne told newspaper 'De Standaard'.

The most amount of rain was recorded in Lichtervelde in West Flanders, where 133lr of rain was recorded per square metre. On average 75lr of rain is recorded in July.

"It rained so much because the downpours moved across the country exceptionally slowly," weatherman Eddy de Mey said. "There was very little wind at a great height so the clouds could literally 'rain themselves out'."

Despite forecasts that the rain will dry up in coming days, the effects of the storm are not yet over: the clean up and damage assessment operation will continue for several days.

West Flanders governor Breyne will submit an application to have the storm classified as a natural disaster and the federal government is now investigating the matter.

Legislation allowing compensation from a natural disaster is set to be approved by Parliament on Thursday — possibly too late for Monday's victims.

Nevertheless, Economy Minister Marc Verwilghen has instructed meteorology bureau KMI to examine whether Monday's storm meets the conditions to be classified as a natural disaster.

The Cabinet will then decide — based on the advice from the KMI and provincial governors — whether a natural disaster occurred in various municipalities.

If the storm is classified as a natural disaster, Flemish residents will be able to more easily submit claims for damages.

Not only streets, but houses and a hospital were flooded and several lightening-strike fires were reported across Flanders on Monday. Rail and vehicle transport encountered problems also. Walloon was largely spared the havoc.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news

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