Reninge, a municipality in the Westhoek, has been receiving heavy rainfall for days. The flooding is so critical that 68-year-old Chantal Schelstraete can no longer leave her house. “The fire brigade just came to deliver my groceries in a boat.”
A strange sight in Reninge, a sub-municipality of Lo-Reninge. Chantal Schelstraete’s house seems to be on an island. The entire area around her home is flooded. “I could only get away with a canoe, but at my age I can’t get into one anymore,” she laughs on the phone. Chantal has been stuck since Monday. But even though she lives alone and therefore has little social contact, she can still put it all into perspective. “It’s actually a beautiful sight. All that water. Especially when the sun shines a little and you see the birds fluttering around in the morning.”
Practically it does of course cause some problems, but Chantal receives good help. “My daughter went shopping for me this morning. She dropped it off at the fire station, after which the fire brigade delivered my groceries to my home in a boat in the afternoon. The fire brigade here is really formidable.”
Chantal thinks she now has enough food and drink for two weeks. There is a chance that she will be stuck for a while. “I’m kind of used to it. Lately this has happened twice a year. But now the water is really high. I have never been detained for longer than two weeks, but now I fear that it could last longer.”
“Luckily I’m retired and I don’t have to do any tricks to get somewhere,” says Chantal.
“Everything that is added now is too much”
In the meantime, the water in the Westhoek continues to fall from the sky. “It is raining very heavily again and it looks like it will last longer than previously predicted,” says mayor of Lo-Reninge Lode Morlion (Dynamic). “Here and there streets are flooded. The bucket is full after all the rain of the past few days. Everything that is added now is too much.”
Forest ranger Erwin Verfaillie of the Flemish Nature and Forests Agency also sees the water causing problems: “Last Friday it was advised against entering the forest due to the consequences of the storm. This week, water is the cause. The Eversambos in Stavele is completely inaccessible and in the Wippenhoekbos it is no longer possible to distinguish between the walking paths and the Poperingevaart. It is better in the Heuvelland, but the muddy paths in particular can cause a slip. Be careful.”
The crisis cell is currently meeting for consultation in Poperinge.