Emergency services' radio doesn't work

Astrid, the communications network used by the Belgian police and fire services, is experiencing major problems. Experts have identified 75 spots across the country where communication is difficult or not possible at all.

The difficulties are concentrated in rural areas, but the nature of the problems at the 75 locations differ from place to place.

The communication system recently experienced problems when fire broke out on Kalmthout Heath. The network offers no coverage in many rural areas, but there are also problems inside buildings and in a number of public places. Communication in some police and fire stations proved to be impossible.

Spokesman Frederik Langhendries: "We are trying to find a solution for each and every location, but it's often a very cumbersome process. To put up new masts, you require a building permit. The site has to be examined. Deals need to be struck with the local authorities. All this takes a lot of time."

The communications network is also experiencing problems through underfunding by the federal authorities. The necessary staff have not been recruited and as a result the reliability of the service can't be guaranteed.