Belgium Holds Day of Mourning in Wake of Deadly Flooding

BRUSSELS (AP) -
People use rubber rafts in floodwaters after the Meuse River broke its banks during heavy flooding in Liege, Belgium, Thursday. (AP Photo/Valentin Bianchi)

Belgium held a day of mourning Tuesday for the victims of last week’s devastating floods, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel made her second visit to the region worst hit by the disaster that left nearly 200 people dead in the two nations.

The Belgian king and queen visited the eastern town of Verviers to console people who had lost loved ones or most of their possessions as torrents swept through villages in eastern Belgium, taking at least 31 lives.

“We will not abandon you,” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo wrote in a letter published in local newspapers. “We will do everything possible to support you.”

Some 70 people are still missing or have been unable to be contacted after massive rains turned streets in eastern Belgium into deadly torrents of water, mud and debris. Flags flew at half staff and at noon, sirens wailed throughout the nation, followed by a moment of silence.

Help is pouring in from across the nation and some 10,000 volunteer workers have offered to visit the hilly region to start the cleanup once the waters have receded enough.

In Germany, Merkel made her second visit to the western region hit by flash floods as work continued to clear up piles of mud-caked debris and find any more victims of last week’s disaster. In the town of Bad Muenstereifel, Merkel started her tour by visiting a warehouse where donations were being stored.

So far, 196 people have been confirmed dead following the flooding — 165 in Germany on top of the 31 in neighboring Belgium.

Merkel and De Croo have promised quick financial aid and a redoubled political focus on curbing climate change.