Deadly Floods in Belgium & Germany — A Monumental Intelligence Failure? [UPDATE : The Lies that Money Can’t Buy.]

“The fact that people didn’t evacuate or get the warnings suggests that something is going wrong. If you’ve got some information about what risk you’re at and you can understand it, you can take action to protect yourself. These floods were huge. Probably they were like a fantasy or a kind of science-fiction movie for people.”

Hannah Cloke — Professor of hydrology at Reading University

July 20 2021 — Belgium and Germany knew that huge floods were coming. Yet, the early warnings were not passed to the population. Scientists believe that this ‘monumental failure of the system’ is directly to blame for the death of at least 200 people in Germany and Belgium. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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“The forecast was only 150 mm.

Minister Philippe Henry (July 20 2021)

UPDATE (August 19 2021) — The Lies that Money Can’t Buy. —

Minister Philippe Henry wanted to hire an engineering consulting firm to ‘investigate’ the tragedy.

Usually, these firms take the money and write a nice report exonerating the minister of any wrongdoing. As they say in Scotland: “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

However, with an ongoing criminal investigation, this game could be a tad risky. It is therefore hardly surprising that not a single candidate has shown an interest in taking this job.

Besides, every single issue the experts are requested to investigate has already be answered very clearly.

Q — What was the level of the Eupen dam before the rainfall?

A — The reservoir was filled at 77% of its full capacity, and not 50% as the minister has claimed.

Q — How did the level of the reservoir evolve from July 12 to July 16 2021?

A — A volume of 8.8 million cubic meters flowed into the Eupen lake, and not 13.4 million cubic meters as the minister has claimed. I provided the timeline in my last update.

Q — What information was available to the Belgian authorities?

A — The Minister and its administration (SPW Mobilité et Infrastructures) had all the information needed to take the right decision. Indeed, hydroelectricity producer ENGIE decided to drain two reservoirs in that area beginning on Monday 12. [Bütgenbach and Robertville]

Q — What can be done to improve the forecast?

A — Nothing at all! The warnings and forecast issued on Monday 12 2021 (3 days before the tragedy!) were very accurate. They correctly predicted more than 200 mm of rainfall over the area where the Eupen lake is located.

There can be no denying. The decision not to drain the reservoir as soon as the warnings were issued was a colossal and incomprehensible error.

If the minister had responded responsibly to the alerts, the death toll would have been significantly less.

END of UPDATE

“The reservoir has a capacity of 25 million cubic meters and it was only half-full. Thus, there was no need to drain it preventively as it had enough capacity to accumulate the water. But 13.4 million cubic meters flowed in and we had no choice but to open the dam in order to avoid a disaster.”

Wallonia Minister Philippe Henry (July 20 2021)

UPDATE (August 16 2021) — First thing first. Sadly, everything I wrote in my last update can be confirmed.

Wallonia Minister Philippe Henry (July 20 2021) claims that the Eupen reservoir was only half-full prior to the tragic rainfall. As I told you, he lied. We now know that the reservoir was filled with 19.13 million cubic meters. This is 77% of its full capacity. (24. 74 million cubic meters)

The minister claims that 13.4 million cubic meters have flowed into the Eupen reservoir. This is false. That amount is the total volume of water that accumulated in BOTH the Gileppe AND the Vesdre reservoirs.

As the catchment area of these reservoirs are about 55 [Barrage de la Gileppe] and 105 km2 respectively, we can estimate that one third went into the Gileppe reservoir and two-thirds into the Vesdre reservoir. This equate to a volume of 8.8 million cubic meters going to Vesdre reservoir, also known as the Eupen lake. That is exactly what I estimated in my last update.

Minister Philippe Henry claims that there was no need to drain it preventively as it had enough capacity to accumulate the water expected from a 150 mm rainfall. That is again FALSE. Even this amount of rainfall would have exceeded the dam capacity by more than one million cubic meters.

The minister claims that draining the reservoir preventively would have made no difference. That is false as I will explain now.

First, this plot shows the amount of rainfall (mm) in Eupen, per steps of one hour, from July 13 00:00 H until July 16 00:00 H.

Rainfall in Eupen from July 13 00:00 H until July 16 00:00 H.

The total amount (207 mm) corresponds to about 8.9 million cubic meters which is equal to 36 percent of the reservoir capacity.

Therefore, each mm of rainfall equates to 0.17% of the reservoir capacity. On average, it takes about 4 hours for the water to reach the reservoir.

Quantity of water in the Eupen reservoir (% of full capacity) — No drain

This plot shows very clearly why it became necessary to release the water from the dam around July 15 at 02:00.

I made no attempt to calculate the level of the reservoir once the drain was initiated as the information is too sketchy. The water was initially released around 02:00 July 15 (point 49/50) at a rate of 200 cubic meters per second.

Finally, what would have happened if the reservoir had been drained at a safe rate of 20 cubic meters per second beginning Monday July 12?

The conclusion is rather straightforward. If the authority had responded responsibly to the alerts, the death toll would have been significantly less.

In fact, hydroelectricity producer ENGIE decided to drain two reservoirs in that area beginning on Monday 12. [Bütgenbach and Robertville]

The decision not to drain the reservoir as soon as the warnings were issued was a colossal and incomprehensible error. I would argue that the decision is a criminal act.

Stay tuned!

END of UPDATE

“Extreme flooding killed more than 100 people in Germany and Belgium on Thursday and Friday, with hundreds missing, despite clear advance warnings, in what one expert described as a catastrophic failure of Europe’s early alert system.” POLITICO

UPDATE (August 09 2021) — Deluge of Disinformation from a Sinister Minister —

Let me be very clear. The minister is lying about the facts to hide his responsibility.

The timeline of this tragedy is still very fuzzy and the administration refuses to communicate the facts about the Eupen reservoir. But we have already enough information to reach several conclusions.

Lake Eupen is an artificial lake near Eupen in East Belgium, not far from High Fens. The lake is created by a dam which was built on the river Vesdre in 1938. The reservoir has a capacity of 25 million cubic meters. The catchment area is about 105 km2 (41 sq mi).

The amount of rainfall is well known. In Eupen, 207 mm accumulated from July 13 (5.00) to July 15 (23.00). Thus, we can try to estimate the amount of water that flowed into the reservoir.

Method 1 — Multiplying the catchment area by the column of water, one gets 22 million cubic meters. About half of that amount probably was absorbed by the ground while the other half reached the reservoir. This estimate would appear to be less than the 13.4 million cubic meters suggested by the minister. It is also an amount that a half-full reservoir should have been able to handle. Let us try to be more accurate…

Method 2 — During the worst hour of the tragedy (July 14 21.00), 22 mm of water rained down in one hour. The correlated peak of the water inflow into the reservoir never exceeded 260 cubic meters per second, which equates to 0.94 million cubic meters during that hour. If we extrapolate this number to the total amount of rain, we obtain 8.8 million cubic meters, again much less than the amount suggested by the minister.

Method 3 — In July 2014, 116 mm of rain fell over Eupen during 48 hours. The reservoir was filled at 80% and it was able to handle all the water. Again, extrapolating from the data above, 116 mm equates to 4.95 million cubic meters. This makes sense and proves that our estimate is about correct. It is also plain obvious that if 20% of the reservoir can handle 116 mm of rainfall, then surely 50% should have been able to stock 207 mm!?!

If the reservoir was half empty, why was it then necessary to fully open it — at a rate of 200 cubic meters per second — in the middle of the night on July 15 around 2.00?

Clearly, the minister is lying. Indeed, I understand that his administration has now admitted that the reservoir was filled at 78%! Thus, there was only 5.5 — and not 12.5 as he claims — million cubic meters available before reaching full capacity.

Notice that the minister admitted that he was aware of a 150 mm rainfall forecast. Knowing that the reservoir was 78% full, it is abundantly clear that there was not enough capacity to deal with such rainfall as the event of 2014 demonstrates.

The minister has also argued that draining the reservoir at 45 cubic meters per second would have flooded the villages downstream. That may be true but it is irrelevant.

If it had been decided to release the water at a safe rate of 25 cubic meters per second on Monday July 12 (12.00), it would have created an additional 5.4 million cubic meters over the next 60 hours. This amount when added to the 5.5 million cubic meters would have been more than enough to handle all the rain that fell during these tragic days.

The conclusion seems very clear. If the authority had responded responsibly to the alerts, the death toll would have been significantly less. When in a hole, stop digging… Philippe Henry should stop lying.

PS — In my next post, I will try to guess as accurately as possible the evolution of the reservoir level during these three days in order to compare it with the official timeline. Stay tuned!

END of UPDATE

“At present there is only an initial suspicion, which is naturally based on a state of knowledge that is fraught with uncertainties and gaps.”

Office of Criminal Investigation (Aug. 6 2021)

UPDATE (August 6 2021) — On August 2 2021, Koblenz prosecutors said they were reviewing media reports and official police investigations into recorded deaths, including those of 12 residents at an assisted-living facility in the town of Sinzig, to determine whether there was sufficient evidence that crimes had been committed.

Today, two officials in Germany are under investigation for suspected negligent homicide over slow evacuations.

The state’s Office of Criminal Investigation said initial work by the public prosecutor’s office in the city of Koblenz indicated that evacuations had been delayed and two officials in the western district of Ahrweiler were being investigated.

The pair, who were not named, were suspected of negligent homicide and bodily harm due to negligence, the office’s statement added. Documents and data from the Ahrweiler crisis team and personal communication tools were taken for analysis. (Reuters) 

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, many lives would have been saved if warnings had been sent and evacuations had been carried out accordingly.

The head of the Federal Civil Protection Office, Armin Schuster, has already acknowledged the complete failure of the alert system.

END of UPDATE

“The EFAS issued a warning in the ‘extreme category’ which means there’s danger to life. It doesn’t say you should evacuate, that’s up to the national authorities. But typically, if you have a danger to life warning, and you know where that’s going to happen, you make sure that you’re in place for evacuation. That’s how disaster risk management works.” Hannah Cloke

UPDATE (July 29 2021) — Belgium opens manslaughter investigation

On Wednesday, the prosecutors office in the city of Liege announced that a Belgian judge has opened an investigation for possible manslaughter.

The investigating magistrate will look at whether possible failings in the alert system caused the death of 41 people.

The judge — believed to be Jean-Marc Mottet — has the task of identifying who might be responsible for “involuntary homicide by lack of foresight or precaution.” 

Clear and Present Danger — There is no doubt whatsoever that Belgian authorities received early warnings of imminent flooding.

For instance, Intel Today can reveal that this warning was available on July 12 2021. Although, the warning is precise and accurate, nothing was done.

Despite this warning, and 23 others, the critical Vesdre dam was kept at near full level until July 13 2021.

When the authorities finally decided to open the dam in the middle of the night, the village downstream was devastated. A night-watch who witnessed the event describes the scene as a tsunami. The inhabitants of the village were not warned to evacuate.

The work of an investigating magistrate is secret. No information will be provided to the media. When his report is transmitted to the prosecutors office, they will decide whether to close the case or to prosecute the person(s) who might be responsible.

What if? If there is a trial, it already seems that the likely accused will argue that they acted in a case of ‘force majeure’.

For a defendant to invoke force majeure in Belgium law, the event proposed must pass three tests: 1/ Externality 2/ Unpredictability and 3/ Irresistibility.

About unpredictability — If the event could be foreseen, the defendant is obligated to have prepared for it. Being unprepared for a foreseeable event leaves the defendant culpable.

This standard is very strictly applied. In France, the Council of State adjudged that, since a flood had occurred 69 years before the one that caused the damage at issue, the latter flood was predictable. [CE 9 April 1962, “Chais d’Armagnac”]

The event that caused the death of 41 people was certainly not unpredictable. As a matter of fact, the flooding had been accurately predicted.

Intel Today can also reveal that the EFAS warnings are now forwarded to Belgian organizations which were not informed at the time of the disaster. Obviously…

END of UPDATE

“On Saturday 10 July, Belgium received the first warning that a flood was imminent. In the days that followed, 24 more alarms followed. Nevertheless, in many Walloon municipalities the first evacuations were only carried out on Thursday and an important reservoir was not drained until Wednesday. Did the government react too late?” Het Laatste Nieuws (July 21 2021)

UPDATE (July 22 2021) — The key facts which I explained in this post were quickly derided as ‘fake news’ by Green Party politicians.

Today, this information is confirmed in several Belgian Newspapers. People are baffled by the timeline and the total absence of leadership during these events.

EFAS issued the first warning on Saturday July 10. Twenty four very detailed warnings and predictions followed in the following days.

Yet nothing was done and no one even know what happened to these warnings? Local authorities claim they never received these alerts.

Despite these warnings, the critical Vesdre dam was kept at near full level until July 13. That is truly incomprehensible.

Philippe Henry (Green Party) will have to explain his decision to act so late. The head of the Wallonia government was forced to promise an investigation.

Professor Damien Ernst believes that it was a monumental error not to drain the reservoir as soon as the warnings arrived. If the right decision had been made, there is no doubt that most damages would have been avoided.

Evacuations were not ordered until July 14, and by then people had nowhere to run. They were drowning in their houses.

European Union environment ministers met in Slovenia on Tuesday to assess the bloc’s plan to contain climate change and Green party politicians are of course using this disaster to push their agenda on Global Warming.

Green party politicians blame this disaster on Global Warming. I blame the death toll on them.

I suspect that they intentionally mismanaged the crisis in order to maximize the damages and use this event to focus voters’ minds on the party’s environmental campaign goals.

If my suspicion is to be proven correct, the Green Party is a terrorist organisation.

END of UPDATE

Terrorism : the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.

Developed in the context of the Cold War, the concept of ‘Intelligence Failure’ is nowadays applied to topics such as human rights, drug trafficking, international crime and the environment.

Explanations for intelligence failure generally include one or more of the following causal factors: organizational obstacles, psychological and analytical challenges, problems with warning information, and failures of political leadership. [Intelligence Failure Theory — Thomas E. Copeland]

“Extreme flooding killed more than 100 people in Germany and Belgium on Thursday and Friday, with hundreds missing, despite clear advance warnings, in what one expert described as a catastrophic failure of Europe’s early alert system.” POLITICO

Intelligence Failures may occur at any of these stages:

Error in the collection of information

Failure to process and analyse the information correctly.

Failure to disseminate and share information.

Failure to act on intelligence.

In Europe, intense flooding is not uncommon. For instance, one of the worst affected towns this year is Schuld, a picturesque town in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Schuld has experienced two previous events of intense flooding, in 1790 and in 1910.

Today, Europe has a world-leading warning system.  After the cataclysmic floods across central and eastern Europe in 2002, the European Flood Awareness System (EFAS) was set up.

Observations from the European Union’s Copernicus satellites combined with hydro-graphical records and readings of river levels allow weather scientists to make accurate predictions up to 10 days in advance.

On July 10 2021 — four days before the first floods — EFAS issued the first warnings to the German and Belgian governments about the high risk of flooding in the Rhine and Meuse basins.

Over the following days, the EFAS scientists produced minutely detailed charts correctly predicting the areas that would suffer the heaviest damage. 

There is not doubt that there was plenty of time to prepare at least the larger towns and cities with warnings or evacuations.

It is abundantly clear that this ‘Intelligence Failure’ is once again a failure of the political leadership.

The reader probably wonders how many lives might have been saved if the danger zones had been evacuated? Here is a clue.

The two rivers that caused the damages in Belgium and Germany– the Rhine, and Meuse — have their deltas in the Netherlands.

The Dutch authorities properly relayed the warnings to the population. Red alerts were issued timely, evacuations were ordered promptly and military were deployed to help.

The Netherlands has so far only reported property damage from the flooding and no dead or missing people.

In Belgium, warnings came late and underestimated the gravity of the situation. The mayor of Chaudfontaine — a town in the province of Liège — received an “orange alert” (warning him of rising waters) when the situation was already out of control.

Obviously, a red alert should have been issued much earlier. The death toll in the Kingdom has climbed to 31 and 70 people are still missing.

The Belgian prime minister and other members of the government are blaming Global Warming for this disaster. This may, or may not be true. Time will tell.

However, it is already very clear that the death toll was not caused by nature but by the failure of the political leadership. Why did it fail? That is the question.

One should never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, but, as Einstein argued, don’t rule out malice! 

For the Green Party politicians, whose popularity in opinion polls had recently dropped both in Belgium and Germany (although for different reasons) the catastrophic flooding could be a chance to get back on track and focus voters’ minds on the party’s environmental campaign goals.

REFERENCES

Deadly floods inundated parts of Europe, but the Netherlands avoided fatalities. Here’s why — CNN

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Deadly Floods in Belgium — A Monumental Intelligence Failure?

Deadly Floods in Belgium — A Monumental Intelligence Failure? [UPDATE : How do you define Terrorism?]

Deadly Floods in Belgium — A Monumental Intelligence Failure? [UPDATE : Belgium opens manslaughter investigation]

Deadly Floods in Belgium & Germany — A Monumental Intelligence Failure? [UPDATE : Two German officials under investigation for negligent homicide]

Deadly Floods in Belgium & Germany — A Monumental Intelligence Failure? [UPDATE : Deluge of Disinformation from a Sinister Minister]

Deadly Floods in Belgium & Germany — A Monumental Intelligence Failure? [UPDATE : The Lies that Money Can’t Buy.]

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