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Ministry rejects terror response concerns

Published on 26/07/2005

26 July 2005

BRUSSELS — Interior Ministry Patrick Dewael has denied renewed claims Brussels is ill prepared to cope with a terrorist attack.

A ministry spokesman also urged Brussels governor Véronique Paulus de Chatelet on Tuesday to accept her responsibilities and ensure that disaster plans are in effect.

The ministry’s statement came after Paulus de Chatelet said the Brussels fire brigade did not have access to all of the city’s emergency response plans for public places.

She told Flemish public broadcaster VRT that the fire brigade is obligated to have at its disposal 714 emergency response plans.

These response plans outline what action city authorities should take at metro and bus stations, museums, hospitals and warehouses in times of a large scale emergency.

Despite the fact those organisations must draw up emergency response plans, the Brussels fire brigade has access to just 83 of these documents.

VRT also reported that just one third of the city’s metro stations have been mapped, which means firefighters do not know where the entry and exit points are or where to find water connections.

However, the chief of Brussels transport service MIVB, Kris Lauwers, said the transport authority has had an internal emergency response plan for 20 years.

Lauwers also said the plan detailed what needed to occur in the event of a disaster and that every one of the city’s metro stations has a separate plan, which is accessible also for the fire brigade.

However, only some of the plans are in digital format. The MIVB hopes to have digital plans for all its metro stations by the end of the year, newspaper ‘Het Gazet van Antwerpen’ reported.

Paulus de Chatelet had earlier said an attack in the Belgian capital could quickly lead to chaos, newspaper ‘De Tijd’ reported.

The governor is in charge of co-ordinating the emergency response in Brussels, but tried to shift her responsibility onto Interior Minister Patrick Dewael on Tuesday.

Paulus de Chatelet claimed Minister Dewael should allocate more funding to the city’s emergency response capabilities.

Shortly after the London bombings on 7 July, the Brussels fire brigade admitted it had staff capacity problems and that would not be able to cope with a similar attack. Poor radio communication was also an area for concern.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news