The flood toll in Belgium rises to 41 dead

Wallonia, a French-speaking region in southern Belgium, suffered most of the disaster

The there is still time to mourn in Belgium.

The historic floods that hit the country have killed 41 people, according to a latest toll revised upwards, said on Tuesday the head of government of Wallonia, a French-speaking region in the south which suffered most of the disaster.

Two people are still missing. The previous report reported 37 deaths caused by torrential rains that hit the country in mid-July. These bad weather also killed 180 people in Germany.

Creation of a commissioner for reconstruction

Elio Di Rupo announced on Tuesday the creation of a special commissioner for reconstruction, during a press conference with several politicians. This body will be responsible for coordinating emergency measures and preparing a reconstruction plan.

The Walloon government had already promised an envelope of 2 billion euros for this task which promises to be immense. “This sum will probably be insufficient,” warned Jean-Luc Crucke, Walloon Minister of Finance and Budget.

Roads and railways destroyed, houses demolished, electricity network damaged: the exceptional floods of many rivers have caused damage that has not yet been quantified. Out of the 262 municipalities of Wallonia, 202 will be admitted to the Disaster Fund, “this gives you the scale of the tragedy we are experiencing,” said Elio Di Rupo.

Waste management and rat control

The assessment of the damage by the insurance companies is still in progress, and should still last “several days, even a few weeks”, he specified. “It’s going to be a long-term effort. Rebuilding everything that has been destroyed (…) will take time, ”said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who pledged the federal government’s help during the press conference.

Among the challenges cited on Tuesday by Walloon officials: rehousing with aid to municipalities, businesses and people affected, but also decontamination and treatment of waste carried by rivers or removed from homes after the floods. The authorities have planned rat control operations.

Wallonia estimates that it has to treat some 42,000 tonnes of soil polluted mainly by hydrocarbons. More than 11,700 km of waterways will have to be “checked or cleaned up”. In two days, the disaster generated the equivalent of three quarters of the region’s annual household waste. It identified 27 potential sites for their temporary storage, in order to clean up congested roads and sidewalks.