Belgium was hit by thunderstorms and banks of heavy rain on Sunday, causing flash flooding that disrupted rail traffic, closed motorway exits, and led to the evacuation of a nursing home and affected festivals.
While the Brussels-Capital Region was spared from any damage, the flooding mainly occurred in the city of Landen in the Flemish Brabant province, where the rain caused the heaviest floods in 20 years.
The municipality's crisis unit was deployed but had difficulty reaching critical locations, Landen mayor Gino Debroux told VRT. "Our municipality has been very badly affected. The crisis unit has come together."
As a result, rail traffic between Landen and Ezemaal was disrupted from 14:30 until 19:00 and diverted via Hasselt. Delays of over an hour were reported, and replacement buses were deployed between Landen and Leuven. The international Thalys and Eurostar trains were also disrupted.
The heavy rain also caused problems at the interchange between the E313 and the E314 motorways in Lummen, as the exit for traffic on the E314 coming from Liège (direction Antwerp) was blocked. The exit from the E313 motorway in the direction of Antwerp to the E314 in the direction of the Netherlands was completely closed due to flooding.
In the Limburg province, the fire services received hundreds of calls from people affected by the heavy rainfall and flooding. Even on Whit Monday, the services are still doing cleaning work. In the municipality of Riemst, the deluge carried away farmland earth, leading to mudslides; around the city of Hasselt, sandbags had to be distributed to stop the flooding.
A lot of water also entered the indoor playground Kinderrijck in Bilzen, which had to close down. More towards the south of the Limburg province, the residents living on the ground floor of the Ocura residential care home had to be evacuated due to the flooding. "It rained continuously for an hour and a half like nothing I have ever experienced in my life," mayor Patrick Lismont told De Standaard.
Two festivals taking place in Limburg this weekend were also badly affected by the heavy rainfall. While Saturday's 27°C provided perfect conditions for outdoor celebrations, Sunday was more problematic: those at the Blues Peer festival (in Peer) could escape the rain by finding a spot under the tent sheeting; Extrema Outdoor festival-goers in Houthalen-Helchteren were urged by the organisation to stay at home until at least 19:00.
Apart from several flooded streets in the district of Mechelen and the Duffel fire brigade assisting several residents with water in their garage, the Antwerp province was mostly spared from heavy damage.
However, in the East Flanders province, the municipality of Waarschoot was completely flooded after 81 mm/square metre fell within two hours. "Almost all streets in the village were flooded... what are we going to do about it?" said local city councillor Freddy Haegeman.
Numerous roads and tunnels in the municipalities of Deinze, Nevele and Zulte were flooded. In Zulte, approximately 50 litres of water fell in one hour, flooding cellars and lift shafts of large apartment buildings.
Many regions in Wallonia – which was also hit hard by the fatal floods in July 2021 – were badly affected, especially in the districts in and around the Liège province. The fire brigade had to intervene especially in Braives, Hannut, Geer and Burdinne, mainly for flooded roads, uprooted trees and water seepage into buildings.
"Be careful on the road, many roads are completely unusable. We are in crisis management and our teams are on the ground," mayor pf Hannut Manu Douette told local media, adding that some roads could still be unstable on Monday. The villages of Crehen, Avin, Grand-Hallet and Cras-Avernas were under water and several roads were closed to traffic.
In Binche in the Hainaut province, lightning struck an apartment building on Sunday morning, the impact of which caused a fire inside the roof. The 21 residents had to be evacuated, as the building is no longer habitable for the time being.
The 1722 number, for non-urgent interventions by the fire services, remains activated, but the easiest way to reach the fire servies is online via 1722.be. The 112 emergency number is only intended for potentially life-threatening situations.