Limburg flooding officially named disaster; Evacuations started in north of province
The floods in Zuid-Limburg are "in a formal sense" a disaster, caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte said after the cabinet's crisis deliberations on Thursday. This means that the cabinet is activating the Compensation for Damage Act, through which the government will partially cover damages not covered by insurers, NOS reports.
This law is applied in cases where the damage is so great that insurance companies may not be able to bear it.
Rutte called the situation in Limburg "as we all can see, absolutely serious". On Friday afternoon, he will visit areas in the province "where it will be stressful in the coming days". He will not visit affected areas and called on others to also stay away. "Please try to avoid the disaster area if you can. There is no need for looky-loos."
Heavy downpours caused flooding in many parts of Zuid-Limburg over the past days. On Wednesday, Valkenburg bore the brunt of the damages. On Thursday, Maastricht was in most danger as the Maas river broke new water level records. The river reached its peak at slightly lower than expected. The water level remained just "below the doomsday scenario", a spokesperson for the safety region said to NOS.
Some 12 thousand people were evacuated in the south of Limburg overnight, mostly in Maastricht and Bunde, Maarten de Kever of Veiligheidsregio Zuid-Limburg said. It is not clear when they'll be able to return to their homes. "We want to first wait for the water to drop before we take new measures."
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The peak of the high water is now slowly moving towards the north of the province. In Roermond, the police started evacuating people at 6:00 a.m., waking them with sirens, megaphones and by ringing doorbells. The residents of 550 homes were evacuated. A number of Echt-Susteren residents were also evacuated.
Veiligheidsregio Limburg-Noord opened a helpline on number 0800-1351 where locals can find information about the flooding.
The military is in the process of installing an emergency bridge over the Geul river, after the permanent bridge was swept away. The emergency bridge should be ready to use this morning.
Downpours also caused major flooding problems in Germany and Belgium. In Germany, at least 80 people have been killed in the floods - at least 30 in North Rhine-Westphalia and at least 50 in Rhineland-Palatinate, the local police reported. "The fear is that there will be more," a spokesperson for the Koblenz police station told German newspaper Bild on Friday morning.
In Belgium the death toll has climbed to 11, with at least four people still missing, VRT reported.