Prime Minister Alexander De Croo wrote a letter to the people affected by the severe weather, which hit many parts of the country last week, and took the lives of at least 31 people so far.
Published on the national day of mourning, which was announced during a press conference on Friday, the letter addresses the victims and the people who were involved in rescue efforts and stresses that the government will not abandon the affected families and communities.
“You can count on us to help you and not to forget,” De Croo said in the letter.
“We, the government, will do everything possible to support the families and communities that have been affected. We will not abandon you,” he added.
De Croo spoke of being heavily affected by what he had seen in Rochefort, Pepinster and Eupen, municipalities heavily affected by the severe weather, which he visited last week, adding that “these images remain in his mind.”
He also mentioned the women and men he met at the scenes of the flooding, “heroes who were living with the anguish and uncertainty of receiving news of their loved ones, but still helped each other to get by together. In an effort of solidarity that I have never seen before in my life,” he said.
Finally, he thanked the emergency services and all the volunteers who have come forward in recent days.
“Incredible efforts have been made, sometimes even at the risk of their lives. You have shown us that, in such difficult times, we can always count on each other,” he said.
On Tuesday 20 July, a national day of mourning will be observed to pay tribute to the victims of the deadly floods, which marks a “moment to reflect on the heavy human toll, but also to welcome the outpouring of solidarity and the feeling of unity in the population,” De Croo said.
In Verviers, which was heavily impacted by flooding, an official ceremony will be held before noon at the local fire station, which will be attended by King Philippe, De Croo and Walloon Minister-President Elio Di Rupo and Home Affairs minister Annelies Verlinden, among others.
They are expected to meet with several of the victims and mayors of the most affected regions, as well as the delegations of firemen, ambulance drivers, civil protection and police who helped in the rescue efforts.
Throughout the day, flags will be flown at half-mast, and the country will hold a minute of silence at 12:01 PM after the sirens of emergency services sound at noon sharp.
Today, on July 20, Belgium observes a National Day of Mourning for those who lost their lives or were affected by the recent severe weather conditions in our country.
🕯️ Join us around the world in observing a moment of silence at 12:01. pic.twitter.com/BiiC4oBQ0c
— 🇧🇪 Belgium MFA (@BelgiumMFA) July 20, 2021
The minute’s silence will also be observed in Tokyo, where the Belgian team athletes in the Olympic village will hold a minute of silence at 9:00 AM local time, together with all other Belgians present in the Olympic village.
In Brussels, the Midi Fair has already said it will stop the music and attractions for five minutes from 7:00 PM, while the City of Brussels has decided to cancel the National Ball festivities which always take place on the eve before the National Day.
Meanwhile, all vehicles operated by public transport company STIB and De Lijn will come to a standstill during the official minute of silence and has called on all its passengers and employees to observe a minute’s silence at noon.
In the past, national days of mourning have been organised for other tragedies, including in 1956, for the 262 people who died in the mining disaster in Marcinelle on 8 August, in 2014 to commemorate the death of the Belgian schoolchildren in a bus crash, and for the deaths of King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola.