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Floods in Europe: Belgium warns against travel as death toll rises

Many Belgians have holiday homes there and travel to flood-ravaged areas of the country could disrupt search and rescue operations, the Belgian crisis Centre said.

Belgian authorities have warned against travel to flooded areas of the country after one of the country’s leading newspapers reported that the death toll in the country had risen to 23.

A centrist national daily, Le Soir, quoted government sources as saying that more deaths had been confirmed.

Overnight, the confirmed death toll rose to 12.

The predominantly French-speaking Wallonia region of Belgium is one of the worst-hit areas, with more than 21,000 people currently without power.

“Avoid travelling to the affected provinces,” the Belgian Crisis Centre, which deals with major emergencies, said in a statement. 

Many roads are flooded or at risk. Please do not travel to the area. You could endanger yourself and/or hinder the work of the emergency services,” the statement said.

The areas in question are mainly in the south and east of Belgium.

Wallonia’s top official warns of possible rise in death toll

Elio di Rupo, the head of Wallonia’s regional government, told broadcaster RTBF that the death toll could rise further.

“Hundreds of people were still trapped in their homes yesterday [Thursday] afternoon,” he said in an interview.

Paramedics, police and military personnel have been sent to the areas to help with rescue and evacuation efforts.

Federal police said dozens of roads and rail lines remained closed across the region.

The Thalys high-speed train between Belgium and Germany, which was hardest hit by the flooding, was suspended until further notice.

“The water is getting higher and higher. It’s scary,” said Thierry Bourgeois, 52, a resident of Liège.

The city and local authorities on Thursday evening appealed to people living on the banks of the nearby Meuse River to leave their homes.

What is the flood situation in neighboring countries?

Luxembourg and the Netherlands are also affected by heavy rainfall.

In the southern Dutch province of Limburg, thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate and Dutch troops are arriving to help.

On Thursday, the Dutch government officially declared the flooded areas a disaster zone.

This means that residents who have lost their homes or belongings can officially claim some compensation from the government if their insurance does not cover the damage.

Heavy rains in Switzerland have prompted the country’s meteorological service to warn of worsening flooding in the coming days.

Meteorologists predict a high risk of flooding on Lakes Biel, Thun and Lucerne, adding that landslides remain possible.

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