Flood hit communities in Belgium reeling one year on, as economic crisis aggravates situation

Communities in the east of Belgium are struggling to recover from floods that hit them hard last year, as Europe's economic woes hamper their recovery.

The devastating downpour of rain killed at least 35 people, in what is one of the country's worst-ever floods.

Turning the page as the dust settles is far from easy though, with a construction worker shortage amid skyrocketing prices just one of the many problems communities are experiencing.

For Charlotte Depierreux, president of the Côté Solidarité - an organisation that was born following last year's floods that aims to help affected families - the probems are compounded by the current economic situation.

"There are plenty of added problems coming up," Depierreux told Euronews. "We have to bear in mind that we are coming out of covid; we have the floods; the war in Ukraine. These problems are costing a lot of money to the local authorities. The price of raw materials has increased too."

In hard hit Chênée, a Liége city district, one flood victim Marie, who didn't want to give their last name, is still battling to rebuild her house, one year after the tragedy.

Valentin Bianchi/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
A small van rests against a structure underneath a bridge after flooding in Chenee, Province of Liege, Belgium, Friday July 16, 2021. - Valentin Bianchi/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

According to her, some insurance companies are pressurising people into unfavourable positions, taking advantage of their vulnerability.

"There are problems with insurance companies," Marie explained. "Some people were almost forced to sign agreements giving them almost nothing. I don't want that. I asked for nothing. I lost everything. I lost a big part of my life. I asked for nothing, so I hope insurance will take this into account."

Destroyed roads, bridges and houses engulfed by water are still visible everywhere in parts of the town of Trooz.

Thousands were badly affected by the floods here, with many people even deciding to leave permanently.

Further east in Pepinster, where 12 died last year, 500 residents have also moved away and left their homes behind.

Part of the town centre was completely demolished, with millions of euros now pouring in to try and rebuild what is left of it.

Virginia Mayo/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
A man stands on a bridge and surveys the damage after flooding in Pepinster, Belgium, on Saturday, July 17, 2021 - Virginia Mayo/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Philippe Godin, the Mayor of Pepinster, told Euronews that the regional government is now trying to future-proof the area from any fresh floods.

"We’ve been working hard with the Walloon government to prevent further possible floods that may happen again due to climate change," Godin said. "We’ve been stretching the Verse riverbed and creating temporary immersion areas to cushion the impact of the water when it goes up."

A year after, floods still haunt hard-hit Belgian towns like Pepinster, which are still looking to recover and prepare from future disasters. For most people though, these are wounds that will take a long time to heal.