Situation in Maaseik precarious as flood wall may collapse: "Please avoid the area"

It seems as if the worst of the flooding in eastern Belgium is behind us, but the situation remains difficult in Maaseik along the River Meuse in Limburg province. The town of Heppeneert risks being flooded as a flood wall could collapse any moment. The armed forces have stepped in to help out in stricken areas while Belgium is also receiving international help. 

Maaseik remains the biggest concern at present. The dikes are weak in some places and the water pressure remains high. "Please don't come to Maaseik", the Limburg governor Jos Lantmeeters warned this morning. 

The village of Heppeneert, just south of the centre of Maaseik, is (was) particularly under threat as a flood wall along the River Meuse could collapse. Sandbags have been put on top to reinforce the wall. 

This afternoon, the Meuse water level finally stabilised and startec dropping a tiny bit, at the rate of 1 centimetre per hour. 

There are a couple of hundred people living in Heppeneert, where all the children have been evacuated now. In other places however, the situation seems to be under control.  

River Meuse causing most concerns

Last night, the River Meuse did not burst its banks in Liège, as some had feared. The water level was going down slowly this morning and it seems that the city centre of Liège has escaped the worst. 

The River Meuse was also monitored downstream, in six Flemish municipalities in the east of Limburg province, where water levels reached a historic high. The Limburg governor Jos Lantmeeters called on local residents in Maasmechelen, Lanaken, Maaseik, Dilsen-Stokkem, Konrooi and Riemst to leave their homes as a precaution last night, but a majority decided to stay. In some parts, the evacuation was obliged though. "The voluntary evacuation was not a success. In each municipality, only about 30 tot 40 people decided to leave," Lantmeeters told the VRT. 

It was a tense night, but in the end the Meuse did not burst its banks. At the moment, the situation seems under control, except for Maaseik.  "The biggest crisis moment is behind us", Lanaken Mayor Marino Keulen said. Dilsen-Stokkem Mayor Sofie Vandeweerd said: "The situation is under control, but it has been really close." 

Other problems were reported in Flemish and Walloon Brabant. In the former, the city of Tienen was hit as the River Gete burst its banks. In Walloon Brabant, the funfair park of Walibi was forced to close its doors as there is too much damage. 

Dozens of people saved from rooftops

The hardest-hit areas include some Liège suburbs, Pepinster and Verviers. In Pepinster, a helicopter is being deployed today to rescue people from their roofs. An estimated 300 people that got trapped in their flooded homes have been saved by rescue workers using small boats, helicopters or other means. 

Yesterday, the helicopter could not fly out due to bad weather conditions. The centre of Pepinster and Verviers looks like a war-zone after the floods.

Top stories