High water levels at the River Maas.
© Radio 2

"Water bomb" in Flanders would cost up to 2 billion euros in damages

A so-called water bomb - an exceptional amount of rain in a short time span - in Flanders would cause havoc to an amount of 2 billion euros. That's according to a first analysis by the Flemish government, which says a team of experts will be put in place to prepare Flanders better against such a natural disaster. 

Wallonia experienced the consequences of such a "water bomb" in July. 41 people died in the floods and the damage was (is) enormous.  Experts have calculated what would be the effect if this were to happen in Flanders. 

The conclusion is that 50,000 to 100,000 people would be hit and that the damage could total up to 2 billion. "The most vulnerable places are the municipalities along the River Maas in Limburg, but also Diest and Aarschot along the Demer, the Dendermonde region and the Schelde quays in Antwerp", says Marijke Huysmans, a hydrology professor who is part of the team of experts that made the calculations. 

A team of experts will make sure Flanders is better prepared for the future. The team will be led by Dutchman Henk Ovink, a hydrology expert at the United Nations who also advised the American government after the Sandy hurricane disaster in 2012. 

The plan should make sure natural water can be stored better when it pours, e.g. via more private water pits (to spare sewage systems) or natural flood areas to give excess water more space. Prevention is another factor; building permits should take into account any future flood risks. Another factor is early warning, to make sure citizens can prepare themselves as well as possible. 

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