Belgian prosecutor opens criminal investigation into fatal floods

A bulldozer pulls debris from the river after flooding in Pepinster, in Belgium, earlier this month

Prosecutors in Belgium have opened an investigation into floods that hit several towns earlier this month, leaving 37 people dead.

The prosecutor’s office in the city of Liege said in a statement that an investigative judge had been appointed to lead the inquiry, which would examine whether there was a basis to charge anyone with involuntary manslaughter by failure of care or precaution.

Amid discontent among the thousands of residents impacted by the floods, a Belgian political party earlier this week requested the appointment of a parliamentary commission to investigate the disaster.

Residents of towns near Liege that were inundated after the Vesdre river burst its banks almost two weeks ago have also called for an independent investigation. Many locals suspect human mishandling of river systems may have amplified the flooding.

Several specialists in hydrology have suggested that lowering the water level at the major Vesdre dam after forecasters issued weather warnings would have prevented a lot of flood damage in nearby towns.

Neighbouring Germany also experienced massive flooding, with the total death toll for the two countries exceeding 210.

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