Belgium opens manslaughter investigation over flood deaths

Magistrate to examine possible failings in alert system after floods killed 38 people

Piles of rubble collected from the flooded areas in the Belgian town of Trooz, a week after heavy rains and floods lashed western Europe on July 14th and 15th. File photograph: Francois Walschaerts/AFP via Getty

Piles of rubble collected from the flooded areas in the Belgian town of Trooz, a week after heavy rains and floods lashed western Europe on July 14th and 15th. File photograph: Francois Walschaerts/AFP via Getty

 

A Belgian judge has opened an investigation for possible manslaughter over floods there that claimed 38 lives, the prosecutors office in the city of Liège announced.

The investigating magistrate has the task of identifying who might be responsible for “involuntary homicide by lack of foresight or precaution”, the prosecutors office said in a statement.

Liège, in the French-speaking region of Wallonia in the south of the country, was worst hit by the disaster.

Questions are already being asked in the aftermath of the flooding over July 14th and 15th, specifically over possible failings in the flood alert system.

Some of those caught up in the disaster have said they had had no warning that a dam at Eupen, in the east of the country, which was overwhelmed by the waters, had its sluice gates opened – before all the locals had been evacuated.

Earlier this week, a political party in Belgium requested the appointment of a parliamentary commission to investigate the deadly floods.

The Humanist Democratic Centre (CDH) said it does not want to launch a “witch hunt” but hoped to shed light on the disaster.

Groups of Belgian citizens were also said to be considering legal action against the state for its alleged failure to protect them.

“The urgency remains to help the victims, and all the efforts must be directed currently on the management of the crisis,” the CDH party said.

The latest provisional death toll stands at 38, federal police told AFP on Wednesday, contradicting a figure of 41 given by the head of Wallonia’s regional government, Elio Di Rupo.

Neighbouring Germany was also hit hard by the flooding, where more than 180 people were killed. – Guardian, with AFP and AP