The Film Capital of the World, itself struck twice by catastrophic deluges in recent years, has pledged prompt financial and practical support for the storm-ravaged West European countries
On July 15, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have been hit by the deadliest storms of the last twenty years, leaving a trail of devastation in the four countries. The affected area is one of the most densely populated regions of Western Europe.
The latest death toll in Germany is 180 and counting, but the country is still searching for hundreds of people in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, the regions hardest hit by the rain. A large landslide has swept away many houses in the municipality of Erftstadt-Blessem, near Cologne. Over 600 persons have been treated for serious injuries.
In Belgium, 20 deaths have been reported so far and 20 more people are still missing. In both countries thousands have lost their homes and their possessions. Entire towns had to be evacuated. The army has been deployed both in Germany and in Belgium to rescue victims and facilitate evacuations. The Netherlands and Luxemburg have also been touched, if to a far lesser degree. Even Switzerland has reported damages along the banks of the Rhine river.
Cannes’ mayor David Lisnard immediately reached out to the consulates of these countries to express his sorrow and solidarity, his support for the bereaved and injured families, and to evaluate the needs, both material and financial.
“In keeping with our values, and with the strength of our capacity of mobilization and expertise in the management of major risks, Cannes stands in solidarity,” says David Lisnard. “We know how essential this chain of solidarity is in the first few hours. I would like to express our heartfelt thoughts and support to the families affected and bereaved.”
He pledged emergency funds of €10,000 each for Germany and Belgium for the hardest-hit communities in either country to help with the purchase of basic necessities and to support the emergency and health services. An appeal for financial donations to the Red Cross was launched to help the population. Online donations can be made through the City’s website.
Mayor Lisnard has also offered the expertise of the Cannes City Council’s specialised teams in terms of repairing and managing flood situations for interested German and Belgian communities. In addition, the flags of Germany and Belgium were flown at half-mast alongside the French flag on the forecourt of the Cannes city hall.
As a pioneer and certified by the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs for its expertise in the prevention and management of natural, health and terrorist risks, Cannes’ City Council is at the disposal of the affected countries and the French State to contribute to the relief and repair operations. Cannes is no stranger to disastrous floods, having been hit twice in 2015 and 2019. The valleys in the hinterland of neighbouring Nice were also devastated by torrential rains in October 2020, and access has still not been entirely restored.
Italy provided a team of civil protection officials, firefighters and rescue dinghies to Belgium to help search for missing people. Along with Italy, France and Austria also sent rescue workers to Belgium to provide “emergency assistance to people affected by the catastrophic floods,” according to a statement by the European Commission. Meanwhile, German businesses like Volkswagen and SAP, and sports organisations like the German Football Federation and the Bundesliga have pledged donations in the millions to aid German flood victims.
German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier sees global warming as the culprit for the flooding. “Only if we decisively take up the fight against climate change will we be able to limit the extreme weather conditions we are now experiencing,” he said. Experts add that similar catastrophic rains could become more frequent.
While that is an undeniable fact, communities along known flood zones are also partly responsible for the material consequences of such calamitous weather events, having forced rivers into manmade beds and sacrificed natural flood retainers like forests in favour of poorly controlled urban sprawl.