Emergency response plan presented two year after fatal floods

Emergency response plan presented two year after fatal floods
The floods in July 2021. Credit: Belga

On the occasion of the first European Day of Remembrance for the victims of the global climate crisis and two years after the country's fatal floods, Belgium's global approach to emergencies and crises was presented.

The effects of global warming on Earth's climate are clearer than ever, with temperatures sizzling in southern Europe and flash floods destroying large parts of India and several American states. Belgium too was ravaged by deadly floods almost two years ago.

Since then, Wallonia, the region that was most heavily hit by the floods, has been working on several measures to prevent future damage from such extreme weather conditions, but a global approach across the country was still missing.

On Saturday 15 July, which marks the first European Day of Remembrance for the victims of the global climate crisis, Home Affairs Minister Annelies Verlinden presented such a plan with her vision for the crisis management of the future based on the lessons learnt after the floods, which she is submitting it to the Federal Government.

"We know that other crises will occur. I will be asking the government's partners to support my plan so that we can strengthen emergency planning and crisis management in our country, provide the help that our people need and make the necessary contribution to making our fellow citizens and our society more resilient," said Verlinden.

What does the plan entail?

In connection with the management of the aftermath of the floods in July 2021 and that of previous events, Verlinden commissioned a committee of experts to examine crisis management in Belgium, which resulted in concrete recommendations and measures to develop existing structures and scenarios for prevention, preparedness, response, assessment and recovery.

For the people living in the areas affected, the impact of the disaster is now considered to be more than just the flooding itself. The recovery period is also taken into account, including the actual start-up of clearing works, the search for housing and reconstruction.

"Recovery is an important new element in our crisis management, which should no longer be seen as a return to normal, but as an opportunity to rebuild better and thus make all players more resilient in the face of future crises. In this way, the impact and damage suffered during emergency situations will be much less," she said.

Credit: Belga

As part of this specific aspect of the plan, Verlinden plans to create a new post of "recovery coordinator," who will take the first steps in managing the emergency situation, including identifying initial needs such as access to housing and drinking water and bringing together all the relevant services to ensure a coordinated approach to the recovery phase.

The new function is combined with a basis that Verlinden wants to put in place to strengthen partnerships in different areas of competence between municipalities, provinces, regions, communities and the federal level.

"The fragmentation of powers and responsibilities in our country cannot be an obstacle for victims. We must join forces and coordinate our efforts in terms of relief, recovery and ongoing support for all those who need it," she said.

In terms of logistics, a national inventory of all available resources should enable them to be deployed from the various departments that manage them.

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On the occasion of this first European remembrance day, Frans Timmermans, the vice president of the European Commission, visited Chaudfontaine, one of the municipalities hardest hit by the July 2021 floods to meet relatives of victims, rescue workers, scientists and politicians.

Later in the day, he will visit Eschweiler, in Germany, and then Valkenburg, in the Netherlands, where the floods of summer 2021 were also deadly. Every year on this day, victims of the climate crisis will be commemorated, while public awareness of the number of lives lost and humanitarian crises caused by climate change will be raised.

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