AP PHOTOS: Desolation, silence a year after Belgium flood

Jul 13, 2022, 2:50 AM | Updated: 3:00 am

CHAUDFONTAINE, Belgium (AP) — The water is gone from the streets, but still bedevils musty walls. Most debris has been swept away, but many homes still stand empty. And when rain rattles, many hearts and souls still cringe with fear.

One year later, it is clear that one mighty rush of water through a string of Belgian valley villages has destroyed much more than 39 lives.

In Ardennes towns like Chaudfontaine and Pepinster, life will take years to rebuild what was swept away in hours on July 14, 2021, as a “water bomb” spread misery through much of eastern Belgium and parts of western Germany.

“All that was left was a marble table with iron legs. I guess it was too heavy” for the flash floods to sweep it out of his home, Chaudfontaine resident Alan Mereschal said. His car was found weeks later, six blocks further.

Nearby, on Thursday, King Philippe, Queen Mathilde and Prime Minister Alexander De Croo will visit villages to mark the anniversary. When they are gone again, people will still have to pick up the pieces of their lives.

The Red Cross estimated that 209 of 262 towns of southern Wallonia were affected and 50,000 homes sustained damage.

In Chaudfontaine, a town known well known for its mineral waters, it’s still eerily quiet, factory houses that once lined the idyllic Vesdre river are mostly empty, in all states of disrepair.

Mereschal’s home was almost a complete loss. He considers himself lucky. He has new furniture, a new television and a new sofa.

“Just happy to have a window basically,” he said.

Some people still face depression and find it hard to listen to the rain, which comes down often in the hilly region. Some people had to wait for a night on rooftops to be rescued. Some were swept away in rubber dinghies, thinking they were close to safety.

“I keep a watch on the weather app now,” Mereschal said. “The hardest part for me is that the pub in the village is closed, so I can’t walk down and get a pint and see friends.”

In nearby Trooz, Paul Martin has lost more. The walls in his home showed water marks reaching up nearly to the ceiling. One year later his house stands empty, a “for sale” sign hanging from the second floor.

The town church served as a food collection point and there are two portable toilets outside the door for residents who still don’t have running water. While some are rebuilding what was left of their homes others have decided to pack it in. “For sale” signs line the streets, mostly close to the river line.

Mereschal, though, is here to stay. “Leave here? Never. I’m like a captain. I will go down with the ship.”


Follow AP’s coverage of climate change at https://apnews.com/hub/climate

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Haitian migrant Gerson Solay, 28, carries his daughter, Bianca, as he and his family cross into Can...
Associated Press

US, Canada to end loophole that allows asylum-seekers to move between countries

President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday announced a plan to close a loophole to an immigration agreement.
2 days ago
Expert skateboarder Di'Orr Greenwood, an artist born and raised in the Navajo Nation in Arizona and...
Associated Press

Indigenous skateboard art featured on new stamps unveiled at Phoenix skate park

The Postal Service unveiled the “Art of the Skateboard" stamps at a Phoenix skate park, featuring designs from Indigenous artists.
2 days ago
(Facebook Photo/City of San Luis, Arizona)...
Associated Press

San Luis authorities receive complaints about 911 calls going across border

Authorities in San Luis say they are receiving more complaints about 911 calls mistakenly going across the border.
8 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

Daylight saving time begins in most of US this weekend

No time change is observed in Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.
16 days ago
Mexican army soldiers prepare a search mission for four U.S. citizens kidnapped by gunmen in Matamo...
Associated Press

How the 4 abducted Americans in Mexico were located

The anonymous tip that led Mexican authorities to a remote shack where four abducted Americans were held described armed men and blindfolds.
16 days ago
Tom Brundy points to a newly built irrigation canal on one of the fields at his farm Tuesday, Feb. ...
Associated Press

Southwest farmers reluctant to idle farmland to save water

There is a growing sense that fallowing will have to be part of the solution to the increasingly desperate drought in the West.
23 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo by Michael Matthey/picture alliance via Getty Images)...
Cox Communications

Valley Boys & Girls Club uses esports to help kids make healthy choices

KTAR’s Community Spotlight focuses on the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley and the work to incorporate esports into children's lives.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
AP PHOTOS: Desolation, silence a year after Belgium flood