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'Unprecedented' flooding hits West Flanders

08:48 14/11/2023

Waters rose to "unprecedented" levels in West Flanders over the weekend, according to the province’s governor Carl Decaluwé, but while the worst is seemingly over, a code yellow warning for rain remains in place for the region.

Heavy rains and rising rivers contributed to the flooding, including river overflow from rains in France.

Decaluwé maintained a call for vigilance as the forecast shows more rain over the coming days, but said the fire brigade has managed the flood response well and only a few places remain critical, such as Stavele (Alveringem), where the rue de l'Yser was under water and closed to traffic during the weekend.

The water is expected to have receded in most areas during a small dry spell, but the provincial phase of the emergency plan is still under way.

Prime minister Alexander De Croo and interior minister Annelies Verlinden (CD&V) joined Decaluwé at a crisis meeting regarding the flood response.

“We have entered calmer waters,” Decaluwé said, and De Croo called the situation “positive”, thanking emergency services for their efforts and visiting the operations command post (CP-OPS) at the fire station in Roesbrugge (Poperinge).

“There is not much more room for manoeuvre,” De Croo said.

“The development is going in the right direction, but the retention basins are full and will remain so for a few days yet, so we have to be very careful over the next few days, if it rains again, because there is not much margin left.”

Decaluwé also stressed that the danger has not been completely eliminated, due to the high water levels.

Photo: Nicolas Materlinck/Belga

Written by Helen Lyons