The bad weather which hit the country, in particular certain regions of Wallonia, was exceptional and sometimes reached levels expected every 200 years. However, climate change could lead to an increase in such events. “It is important to define the level of protection that we ask of our emergency services, against which crisis we want to protect ourselves. Climate experts tell us: it may not be as exceptional in the years to come, ”said the Minister.
In front of the deputies, the minister retraced the chronology of events from a federal point of view. Several meetings between the federal crisis center and the provincial governors took place before the federal phase was triggered, on July 15 at 2:30 p.m. The same day, in the morning, two meetings were held during which the governors preferred to remain in a provincial phase in order to coordinate the assistance as close as possible to the local situation. Faced with weather forecasts which did not suggest any improvement until the next day, the extent of the territory affected and the number of people concerned, the federal phase was finally triggered in consultation with the governors. As of July 14, federal measures had nevertheless already been taken, in particular the activation of the national logistics hub in order to meet the needs in boats and helicopters.
Assessment work involving a private partner will begin. However, the minister asked a few questions, in particular that of the evacuation. Unlike other countries, Belgium rarely faces natural disasters and people are reluctant to abandon their homes. Shouldn’t evacuation decisions be made binding? asked the minister. Another question: faced with the crucial role they must play in this kind of situation, do the provincial crisis units have sufficient resources?
The reform of civil protection led by the former Minister of the Interior, Jan Jambon (N-VA), has been the subject of numerous criticisms and will also be evaluated. The number of barracks has been reduced from 6 to 2, one in Braschaat (province of Antwerp) and Crisnée (province of Liège). During the crisis, its staff were fully mobilized, that is to say 80 to 130 agents daily out of a total of around 260. If we take for example the number of agents sent in reinforcement by the Netherlands -80-, the shortages are glaring, estimates the PTB. The disappearance of outposts also reduces the number of volunteers who, to be trained, must go too far. “Your predecessor undermined Civil Protection,” lamented Eric Thiébaut (PS).
The distress of the mayors was also highlighted. Often alone, they had to make difficult decisions, noted Catherine Jadin (MR) who pinned a “lack of coordination” in the management of the crisis.
“We weren’t ready,” said Julie Chanson (Ecolo-Groen). What will be the follow-up to this exchange of views? “A commission of inquiry will be necessary in order to provide a basis for recommendations for a more solid policy,” said Nabil Boukili (PTB). In the majority but also in certain opposition groups, the various options remain open. The subject is complex because it involves several levels of power. “The least we can do is provide a global view of the problem. Then we will see if we can go up one degree with a commission of inquiry ”, underlined Vanessa Matz (cdH).
This complexity will have to be answered, asked several deputies. Kristof Calvo (Ecolo-Groen) recalled the competence of institutional reforms which also belongs to Mrs Verlinden. “Part of the problem is also in the structure of the state,” he noted.
Many deputies also drew the minister’s attention to the need to help disaster victims, who are still in distress. “In the most disaster-stricken neighborhoods, a social time bomb has been set off,” warned Ms. Matz.