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Flooding in West Flanders could be recognised as natural disaster

08:50 21/11/2023

The flooding that took place in West Flanders along the French border will “very probably” be recognised as a natural disaster by the Flemish government, according to Flemish minister-president Jan Jambon.

Jambon said that all the indicators show the situation there is taking on “exceptional proportions”, a qualifier for such a distinction.

“Everything is being done to respond as quickly as possible to the requests of those suffering damage,” Jambon said, adding that the Flemish government is also setting up a working group tasked with formulating proposals within a month “to avoid such disasters as far as possible in the future”.

The flooding attracted attention from a number of government authorities and politicians, and King Philippe visited flood victims in person.

Storm Ciarán battered Belgium on 2 November with gusts of up to 110 km/h, damaging at least 44,000 buildings and leaving the flooded Yser basin under surveillance even today, with 25 homes evacuated over the weekend.

Rainfall was especially heavy in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, with that rain then trickling down to the Westhoek region of West Flanders, flooding the area.

While the situation has stablilised overall, the area of Diksmuide remains at risk.

“There are a lot of farms that are threatened by water, especially around Diksmuide,” mayor Christof Dejaegher said.

“Some farms have already been evacuated, but there are also farmers who don't want to leave, who are staying on their farms to protect their animals. It's a dangerous situation.”

Aurore Degré, hydrologist and agronomist at Gembloux Agro-bio Tech, said that while some uncertainty remains, there are few comparisons to be made with the fatal floods a few years back.

“What we can see is that we're in a completely different configuration of catchment areas and landscapes,” Degré explained.

“The flooding is very slow. The water levels are not very high. This is positive because there is obviously much less damage. There has been no loss of life, and that's good news.

"But the flooding is very slow and it's true that each additional rainfall means there's a bit of uncertainty about the end of events."

Written by Helen Lyons