A ravaged road, a broken train, cars swept away, mud everywhere and a few tears: the Belgian city of Dinant healed its wounds on Sunday after a very local but exceptionally stormy episode.
Dressed in shoes and armed with shovels and brooms, residents of Rue de Philippeville clean up soil invading garages, ground floors and basements after a violent storm on Saturday evening in this area of the province of Namur (South).
Visuals recalling the devastating floods that hit the neighboring province of Lige ten days ago that killed 37 people, according to a new assessment from the crisis center on Sunday. He had also influenced Dinant by the floods of the Meuse, but much less strongly.
Parked cars raced down the sloped road like a “ball” and got stuck at a level crossing. Sidewalks were torn apart by torrents of mud, wires were exposed, sidewalks lifted and paving stones were washed away.
It is the runoff water, because of the lack of high absorption by the already heavily soaked land, that was invading the road.
One resident said, “I saw a mass of water over a meter (high) that took everything on board. I was scared for my 89-year-old mother, who lives across the street. Electricity. We Couldn’t cross the road.” Jacques Hermant sobs in his voice.
– “Never seen it like this” –
His car, with broken windows and flat tyres, was swept away like the others. “Going on vacation? I don’t want to,” says the retiree, still deprived of running water.
“We are used to seeing the Meuse rise above, but the water flows down the streets of the heights… it is unimaginable”, testifies Brigitte Crouquet, a native of this tourist town known for its citadel and its cliffs goes.
“There was a big storm with hail. We were at a football match, the synthetic pitch was all over the place. In Dinant, it was raining mud, we had never seen anything like this,” she adds.
“Our city is so beautiful, it can’t be damaged by climatic events”, she angrily, her voice cracked.
On Sunday morning, a crane cleared the tracks of stones and stacked branches to allow technicians to assess the extent of the damage with mud-covered ballast on this section connecting Dinant to Namur.
“I had never seen anything like this in 20 years. The ballast stabilizes the track, the mud has a spring effect”, explains Claudio Gualtieri, a technician at Infrabel, the infrastructure manager of the Belgian railways.
Although localized, the damage is substantial. “We are going to do temporary work to close the roads. We expect help from the Walloon government. It will be very expensive,” said deputy mayor Robert Closet in an orange jumpsuit.
No deaths or injuries were reported in this stormy episode, which affected a total of ten municipalities in the Meuse Valley, including Namur. In Dinant, some residents had to leave their homes.
Once again, solidarity is in full swing: residents are helped by volunteers who have come from the city, but also from further afield, like this woman who came to bring croissants and pains au chocolate.
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