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Major flood relief efforts continue in Europe

Major flood relief efforts continue in Europe

Major flood relief efforts continue in Europe

29 July 2021

Despite their homes and properties being flooded, teams of volunteers from The Salvation Army in Liège, Belgium, were out in force to assist the community with food and clothing.

Several Salvation Army properties across parts of western Europe have been inundated by severe flooding this month, but that has not stopped its emergency response teams in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands supporting first responders and local authorities.

Rivers in numerous areas burst their banks during record rainfall, causing damage to property and essential infrastructure. More than 180 people have died in what has been described as the worst natural disaster in Germany in 60 years.

Flooding in Liège in Belgium where people were evacuated as the River Meuse burst its banks.

At the height of the floods, local authorities called for the evacuation of Liège, one of Belgium’s largest cities with a population of about 200,000 people. While The Salvation Army’s property close to the River Meuse was inundated, the damage was largely confined to the basement. 

Salvation Army volunteers distributed bedding, clothing, emergency food and drinks to people whose homes had been devastated. An emergency appeal for food, clothes, hygiene and childcare items has been launched by The Salvation Army nationally, with collection points from Brussels to Antwerp.

Following crisis management meetings with the municipal government, the Army in Germany has been coordinating a central response from its headquarters in Cologne. The floods have claimed about 160 lives in the country, with many more people missing. Thousands of people still cannot be contacted as telephone lines, mobile networks and electricity supplies have been breached.

Manfred Simon, a public relations manager for The Salvation Army, said emergency service teams would continue to provide hot meals, drinks and blankets in the areas most affected: “We are supporting municipalities with manpower and food, helping first-aid teams locally.”

Many Army personnel have interrupted their summer holidays to be part of the support crews.

Manfred said the worst-affected area was in ​​Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, which is about 60km south of Cologne, where authorities were focusing on rescuing people and administering first-aid: “Our response is contingent on discerning the needs that the municipalities will have.”

Army officers in Stuttgart are standing by, ready to deploy their emergency vehicle to where it is most needed.

Some Army locations in Maastricht were flooded during the downpour, and some clients needed to be evacuated. They either sought refuge with family or friends or in one of the sports halls designated as an emergency shelter.

The Army is in close contact with local authorities, particularly in the Limburg region in the country’s south, which has been badly affected. Volunteers have offered spiritual support at the evacuation centres. Evacuees unable to return to their homes have been provided with clothing.

Teams of volunteers have been helping affected residents with cleaning and restoring homes and streets. More Army crews are to be deployed in the area in the coming days.

The Army’s response coordinator, Gert Kraaijveld, and the regional manager for Limburg, Diana van Dijk, have been in contact with the municipality of Valkenburg to learn where best to provide support.

Diana said the Army had deployed “three buses full of people and equipment”, ranging from cleaning supplies to garden tables, high-pressure water jets and vacuum cleaners to the most affected areas. The Army’s soup bus was also deployed. “A cup of soup is only a small Band-Aid on the wound, but it is very much appreciated,” Diana said.

Gert said that, despite the damage and the prospect of a long recovery, reactions from residents had been positive: “We just started ringing doorbells and asked everywhere if we could help with anything. Not everyone needs this, but people do respond very enthusiastically to our offers of help.”

Support from the business community has helped in the recovery process. One hotel donated tables, chairs, mints and chocolate.

Edited from an IHQ Communications report, International Headquarters


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