No candidates for audit of Walloon waterways in flooding enquiry
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No candidates for audit of Walloon waterways in flooding enquiry

The Eupen dam. © Ostbelgien.be

An appeal for candidates to carry out an investigation into the management of Walloon waterways in the run-up to the July floods has received no applicants, l’Echo reveals.

Following the catastrophic flooding, from which the region will be recovering for months if not years to come, criticism was levelled at the management of some Walloon region waterways, principal among them the dam at Eupen.

Had the dam been allowed to release some of its water in time, critics claimed, it would not have been forced to at the last minute, which made the heavy flooding worse.

The release of waters ought to have been done in advance, based on clear forecasts of heavy rain by the Royal Meteorological Institute (RMI) and the European Flood Awareness System (EFAS).

Instead, the dam released water during the worst of the storms, leading witnesses to speak of sudden rises in water levels in the streets and roadways, not as if a river had burst its banks, but more as if a huge amount of water had escaped at one time.

Faced with the growing criticism of the management system, Walloon minister for mobility and infrastructure Philippe Henry (Ecolo) decided to engage an independent auditor to examine the issue.

“The question must be asked: were the right decisions made and did we have all the information necessary to make them?” he asked at the time.

The victims, the families of the victims and the local authorities have the right to obtain answers.”

The contract should have been handed out on Monday this week. Instead, no candidates applied.

“The time-period was not favourable and the deadline very short,” Sandra Guily, spokesperson for the Henry ministry, told L’Echo. “We launched a new call for tenders this Wednesday afternoon, dividing the market into two lots.”

The original tender was sent out to just over the legal minimum of three companies in an accelerated procedure, but now the scope will be broadened to take in more candidates, she said.

The contract will cover two aspects: explaining the facts of the matter at the time of the floods, and what eye-witnesses described as a tsunami of water where a gradual rise would have been more anticipated; and recommendations for the future on ways to prevent such a situation arising again, whatever the causes are determined to have been.