King praises aid workers and volunteers in National Day speech
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King praises aid workers and volunteers in National Day speech

Queen and King observe the two-minute silence on a visit to rescue workers in Verviers. © Belga

The crisis caused by flooding in some parts of the country has brought out the best in many of the people of Belgium, King Philippe said yesterday in his traditional address to the nation on the eve of the National Day.

Much of our country was hit by an unprecedented natural disaster,” he began, in a speech that reportedly was thoroughly rewritten after the events of the weekend.

Our thoughts go to the families and loved ones of the victims and to all those in need. The human toll is high.”

Since the waters began to recede, the King and Queen Mathilde have visited a number of the villages hardest hit, he explained.

The floods have wreaked havoc in our towns and villages. Many have lost everything. The work of a lifetime, wiped out in a few hours. The Queen and I will never forget our meetings with the residents of Pepinster, Chaudfontaine, Rochefort and other hard-hit communities.”

He then turned his attention to the response of the people of the area and the rest of the country, who in a matter of hours and days gathered together massive amounts of food, clothing, bedding and other supplies for the people hardest-hit by the drama.

In adversity, our people show immense solidarity. Help is offered spontaneously from all corners of the country and countless volunteers have set to work with great dedication. We are very grateful to them and our European partners.”

In a speech designed to celebrate the Belgian nation, and its motto – unity brings strength – the theme could not have been more fitting.

The response is all the greater considering the country is only now emerging from a lengthy health crisis affecting everyone, he said.

Over the past eighteen months, our country has endured a severe ordeal. We have paid a high toll. Many of us have experienced personal or professional drama. Our lives have been turned upside down – affecting the mental health of the population, especially the youth. Many have suffered from loneliness and isolation.”

And he closed with a message.

“I trust our strength to bounce back. In these difficult times we have been able to survive by going back to the essence: our humanity. It is invaluable, and we must cherish it. That will allow us to meet the challenges of our society and of our planet. I am happy to share this conviction with you on the occasion of the national holiday.”