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One year after Belgium's fatal floods, remembrance of victims and climate action pledge
One year after fatal floods claimed the lives of 39 people in Belgium, public figures from the prime minister to the royal family gathered in the hard-hit province of Liege to pay homage to those who died.
“A year ago, the inhabitants of the most beautiful valley in the world discovered hell,” prime minister Alexander De Croo said in his address, which drew a parallel between the record-breaking floods and climate change.
“Here, in front of our eyes, in our homes, we have seen the devastation that nature can cause if we do not act. Although we can clean the streets and rebuild the houses, the scars remain. We cannot just sit and wait for the next flood, the next heatwave or the next extreme drought, which will again claim lives.”
De Croo reiterated Belgium’s commitment to taking action against the effects of climate change, including participation at COP26 in Glasgow, but said “we can and must go further”.
The floods in the summer of 2021 were the worst to ever strike Wallonia, affecting 209 of the region’s 262 provinces and causing massive structural damage in addition to the fatalities. Rebuilding costs have already reached €2.8 billion and work remains to be done.
Walloon minister-president Elio Di Rupo, King Philip and Queen Mathilde were also present, and the monarchs visited some of the worst-hit municipalities in order to speak with residents, local authorities and emergency services ahead of the memorial service in Chênée, Liège.
The ceremony took place symbolically in a large tent installed at the confluence of the Vesdre and the Ourthe, two rivers that overflowed during the flooding.
“The locals feel it is important to welcome the king and queen to their community. It is a heart-warming gesture. This is a hopeful message for the future and for the reconstruction of our municipality,” said Limbourg’s mayor Valérie Dejardin.
The ceremony in Chênée ended with a minute of silence in memory of the victims, after which another meeting took place between the king, the queen and the relatives of the victims. Out of respect for the families, the press was not present.
Photo: © Belga/Benoît Doppagne