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People were warned of floods – environment minister

People were warned of floods – environment minister

by Yannick HANSEN 2 min. 19.07.2021 From our online archive
Residents in flood-prone areas used to checking government updates but water reached areas that had never seen floods before
 Echternach's main shopping street under water
Echternach's main shopping street under water
Photo credit: Gerry Huberty

Locals received several warnings throughout the days preceding record-breaking floods that hit towns and villages in Luxembourg last week, environment minister Carole Dieschbourg said on Monday.

But people would have had to check the national flooding website or followed media weather reports to find out about the torrential rain and the flood alert. 

The first warning came from the European Flood Awareness System (EFAS) which detected a possible threat of floods and alerted Luxembourg's authorities as early as Monday last week, after several days of heavy rainfall.

As heavy rain continued and water levels rose steadily, Luxembourg's water management authority upgraded the threat level to "alert" (phase d'alerte) on Wednesday. At that point a government task force convened to monitor the situation, said Christine Bastian, a senior civil servant from Luxembourg's water management authority.

The government notified the press of all meteorological changes and frequently updated the website - which tracks water levels - Dieschbourg said at a press conference on Monday when asked how people were warned.  

Not everyone checks updates

Residents in areas prone to flooding are used to checking the government's updates but the water reached areas that had never seen any floods before, Dieschbourg said. 

"Some areas had extra time, but the situation was so extreme, people could not cope with the historic levels of water," she added.

However, Dieschbourg said not much could have been done to prevent the damage caused but that local councils were ultimately responsible for possible evacuations. Though she also heralded the "perfect collaboration between all levels".

Locals in Echternach, a town on the German border that was severely hit by the floods, complained about a lack of warnings. "We were not warned, we were not warned", a visibly upset flood victim told Prime Minister Xavier Bettel on Friday when he was visiting the town.

Fifteen of Luxembourg's 41 measuring stations registered an all-time record water level. Rivers Alzette - which runs through Luxembourg City and its suburbs - and rivers Our and Sûre - which run along the Luxembourgish-German border - burst their banks and set several towns under water. The Moselle, Luxembourg's largest river, was not affected by the floods, Dieschbourg said.

Despite extensive damage to properties, no one was injured or killed in Luxembourg. In neighbouring Germany the floods have claimed at least 165 lives and many more are still missing, according to the latest figures.

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