Belgian Workers Party demands inquiry into poor flood management in Wallonia 

Like in several other European countries, heavy rains and flash floods wrought havoc in the southern and central parts of Belgium in July, especially in the Walloon region, resulting in heavy loss of lives and property

August 02, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Belgian Floods
Volunteers involved in cleaning and relief activities at a flood-ravaged neighborhood in Belgium. (Photo: via PTB)

On Saturday, July 31, the Workers Party of Belgium (PTB/PVDA) demanded the establishment of a commission of inquiry to look into the Wallonian authority’s management of the two rounds of flooding which caused havoc in the region in July. Alice Bernard, PTB’s Walloon regional deputy, also criticized Wallonian minister-president Elio Di Rupo’s opposition to constituting a commission of inquiry. 

In the two rounds of flooding that occurred in southern and central parts of Belgium in the third and fourth weeks of July, 42 people lost their lives and extensive damage to households, agriculture, livestock, public infrastructure and other property was recorded. Following the first round of floods, July 20 was observed as a national day of mourning in Belgium to grieve the lives lost due to the floods.

After the flooding, widespread accusations and complaints were raised by the people of the flood-affected regions regarding the dysfunctional management of the crisis by the authorities. According to reports, a minimum of 15,000 people in the Walloon region require urgent relocation to safe shelters from their residences which were totally or partly destroyed by the floods. In such a context, the demand for the constitution of an inquiry commission is gaining momentum in the flood-ravaged Wallonian provinces of Belgium.

Bernard stated on Saturday that “the argument of deputies’ lack of ‘technical skills’ [which was cited to oppose the inquiry] does not hold water at all. It is precisely the principle of a commission of inquiry to hear from various experts in order to shed light on the serious events that have occurred, to update any dysfunctions and to formulate recommendations. Why is Di Rupo opposed to this? Should we remind him that there are 42 dead and at least 15,000 families to be relocated?”

“Given the scale of the tragedy that has affected our region, I dare not imagine that we refuse to do this work at the level of parliament. All the more so since the responses of the Walloon government, in particular on the management of dams, have been totally unsatisfactory,” she added.

The PTB/PVDA also demanded that the authorities make use of the thousands of unoccupied public and private dwellings across Wallonia, especially in cities like Liège, to quickly relocate the disaster victims. Germain Mugemangango, PTB/PVDA leader in the Walloon parliament, said that “in Liège, as in other Walloon towns, there are thousands of dwellings that are unoccupied. Over 1,800 public housing units are empty across the province. As far as Liège itself is concerned, around 3,000 private dwellings are vacant.”

Cadres of the PTB/PVDA and its mass organizations, including Comac, RedFox, Medicine for the People (MPLP), etc., are actively involved in the ongoing relief work for people in flood-ravaged areas across the country. 

Since July 12, along with Belgium, several parts of Europe including Austria, Germany, France, Netherlands, Croatia, Switzerland, Italy, France, Romania, Luxembourg, Czech Republic and the UK experienced heavy rainfall and flash floods. Experts have already suggested that global trends in climate change are responsible for the increasing frequency of heavy rains in Europe.