Deutsche Welle (English edition)
Belgium: Royals take part in minute's silence for flood victims
Sirens marked a minute's silence for those who lost loved ones, their homes and their property during the floods. The somber moment comes on the eve of a national holiday.
Belgium fell silent on Tuesday as an act of remembrance for the victims of the devastating floods in northern Europe over the past week.
At least 196 people were killed after heavy rains unleashed flash floods and landslides. In Belgium, the number of fatalities reached at least 31.
King Philippe and Queen Mathilde visited the fire station at Verviers near the border to Germany, one of the towns most affected by the flooding, to pay their respects.
The Belgian flag was flown at half-mast on official build
ings. The EU flag was also flying at half-mast at the bloc's headquarters in Brussels.
Disaster overshadows national holiday
The moment of respect came on the eve of Belgium's national holiday. Celebrations to mark the country's independence on Wednesday were set to be more
subdued in the wake of the disaster.
"We will not abandon you. ... We will do everything possible to support you,'' Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said in an open letter.
The country is still searching for around 70 people as the arduous process of cleaning up and rebuilding begins.
"All means will be used," King Philippe promised.
He and his wife were photographed consoling residents before joining the minute of silence.
Tuesday marks the first time since 2016 that Belgium has observed national mourning. The last time followed a deadly coordinated attack claimed by the socalled Islamic State that killed 32 people in the capital Brussels, at its main Zavantem airport and a central subway station.
Focus turns to curbing climate change
In neighboring Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel was also visiting regions hit by the floods in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Leaders in both countries highlighted the need to focus on efforts to curb the worst effects of
EU environment ministers also met on Tuesday to discuss their plans to deal with increasing extreme weather patterns caused by climate change.
"What we've seen last week was a small reminder of the fact that the cost in human lives, but also material costs of nonaction are way, way higher than the cost of acting,'' European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said.
ab/msh (AP, AFP)