Heavy rainfall and mass flooding across Belgium has resulted in at least two people dying, thousands of houses being damaged or collapsing and Belgium calling for international help.
In Eupen, in the east of Belgium, a young man went missing and was later found dead by emergency services after reportedly having jumped into the fast-flowing water with a rubber ring.
In the municipality of Aywaille in Liège, a 50-year-old man drowned in his cellar, whilst in Rendeux, in the province of Luxembourg, divers and drones have been searching for a 15-year-old girl who was swept away by the Ourthe river for several hours, but she has not yet been found.
There are now growing fears that the Meuse may completely flood on Thursday, which could cause further damage in the region.
On Wednesday, Federal Minister of Defence Ludivine Dedonder announced military aid would be provided to the hardest-hit regions, including Spa and Chaudfontaine, where about 1,350 homes and some 1,700 people were affected.
“Requests for assistance and deployment of equipment will be handled at the provincial level in consultation with the emergency services on the ground. Defence can help by deploying zodiacs, water pumps, transport and housing and other means,” Dedonder’s spokesperson Cédric Maes told Sudpresse.
In several provinces in Belgium, including Namur and Liège, the emergency plan was declared on Wednesday after several watercourses burst their banks, and several authorities decided to evacuate houses and towns preventively.
Meanwhile, the heavy rainfalls have shifted to the centre of the country, and in Flemish Brabant, the situation is worsening as well and is even becoming catastrophic, according to Jo Roggen, mayor of Geetbets, which is getting a lot of the water from Limburg and Wallonia via the river Gete.
In Leuven, the fire brigade has already received more than 150 calls for flooded cellars or leaking roofs.
On Thursday morning, Home Affairs Minister Annelies Verlinden activated the European mechanism which allows Belgium to call on extra material and aid workers to deal with the consequences of the heavy rainfall.
Verlinden is also in contact with colleagues in neighbouring countries for additional reinforcement of various emergency services.
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo confirmed that emergency services are being deployed across the country and that Belgium can count on international assistance.
“Our country is currently hit by extreme rainfall. We sympathise deeply with all affected families and local authorities,” he said on Twitter.
Ons land wordt momenteel getroffen door extreme neerslag. We leven intens mee met alle getroffen families en lokale besturen.
Hulpdiensten uit het hele land zetten alle middelen in, met steun Binnenlandse Zaken en Defensie. We kunnen ook rekenen op internationale bijstand.
Meanwhile, there will be no trains running between Maastricht and Liège, and Belgian railway manager Infrabel has decided to stop train traffic in the south of the country as a result of flooding, saying it is “not responsible to allow trains to run” in this weather.
As a result of the ongoing heavy rainfall, several youth camps in the south of Belgium have been evacuated or cancelled. Meanwhile, it has also led to road closures in the eastern part of the country heading to the Netherlands.