Belgium today has a day of national mourning to dwell on the victims of the flood. At least 31 people died in the country, and the weather has caused major devastation to homes and infrastructure. Emergency services had their sirens flowing for a minute at noon, after which a minute of silence was held.
King Philip and Prime Minister De Croo attended a memorial ceremony in Verviers:
People need to reflect on the events of recent days, says correspondent Aïda Brands. “Its the biggest natural disaster in times that hit Belgium.”
The government asked everyone to “respect the silence as much as possible”. The Belgian athletes who are in Tokyo for the Olympics also kept a minute of silence. Public transport literally stopped for a minute where it was possible. The Belgian railway company SNCB did run the trains but asked travellers and staff to be quiet for a minute.
The number of missing persons in Belgium has been adjusted yesterday: 70 people are now missing, instead of 127. “Many missing people have been found because they are reachable or found in hospital,” says Brands. “But the longer the search lasts, the more likely the missing people left have been taken by the water.”
National Mourning Day coincides with the Feast of Sacrifice. The Grand Mosque in the city of Ronse stands still on the victims for prayer, tells a volunteer against Flemish broadcaster VRT. “Its hard for us to have a party and pretend nothings going on, while those people are in a very difficult situation there.”
Tomorrow the national holiday will be more soberly celebrated in Belgium. The festivities are smaller and some activities have been cancelled.