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Belgium declares 20 July a ‘national day of mourning’

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. Credit: Belga

Belgium’s federal government decided that Tuesday 20 July will be a national day of mourning the victims of the severe weather in recent days, announced Prime Minister Alexander De Croo during a press conference on Friday.

“Our country is going through very difficult moments,” said De Croo. “Our thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones. The whole country sympathises with them.”

“What should have been beautiful summer days have suddenly become dark, pitch-black days for many of our compatriots,” he added.

The final balance still has to be made up, but this could “possibly be the worst floods that ever happened in Belgium.”

Tuesday 20 July will be a day of national mourning, and the celebrations for Belgium’s National Day on 21 July will still take place, but in a very limited capacity.

The absolute priority now is rescue work, according to De Croo.

“All possible resources have been mobilised. Given the scale of the disaster, the federal phase of the emergency plan has been declared,” he said. “The situation remains critical in many places.”

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Interior Affairs Minister Annelies Verlinden also expressed her sympathy, saying that her thoughts “go first and foremost to the victims, I sympathise deeply with the families.”

“The uncertainty of friends and family of people who have gone missing must be unbearable,” she added.

Currently, 20 deaths have officially been confirmed in Belgium, according to Verlinden. “Of the victims, nine people have already been identified.”

At least 20 other people are still missing, and a total of 112 municipalities were affected by flooding, she said.

This is extreme and particularly exceptional rainfall “that only happens once every 200 years,” Verlinden said. “What I have seen in the town of Chaudfontaine makes one particularly silent.”

Additionally, she praised and thanked the emergency services that have come to help from all corners of Belgium, and even abroad, to help others, something with danger to their own lives.

An emergency account number has been opened via the Red Cross, where people can make donations to support the flood victims, announced Verlinden. The account number is BE70 0000 0000 2525.

Anyone who would like to offer help can also register via the Red Cross crisis volunteer platform. More info can be found here.

Like his colleagues, Walloon Minister-President Elio Di Rupo also expressed his sympathy, saying that “our aim and our only concern is to help the victims and get them out of their conditions.”

Several support measures have been taken in Wallonia, including financial aid to the flood victims and a budget for the clean-up, according to him.

Additionally, Di Rupo advised people, once they get back to their homes, to take photos before moving anything, and not to throw away anything, so that experts can properly assess the damage.

According to Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon, it is “obvious that this gigantic flood should officially be recognised as a disaster.”

“However, it still has to be determined which municipalities fall within the disaster area. I have asked that the procedure be accelerated,” he said.

“Anyone who has suffered damage must register with the disaster fund as soon as possible,” Jambon said. “Those who are entitled to compensation will also receive it quickly. But those affected must also submit a dossier to their insurance company.”

Additionally, he called on all insurance companies to give priority to the cases linked to the storms. “I will make sure that the people affected get what they need.”