Before they called it the “ghost highway”, now it became “Highway of horror”, as a Belgian media nicknamed her. An abandoned section of the A601 route near Liège in Belgium, became a immense open-air dump in which the authorities deposited some 100,000 tons of rubble and waste recovered after the floods in July, which left 38 dead and millionaire damages in the European country.
The image is surreal. It is a mountain up to five meters high that stretches for 10 kilometers. The terrible proof of the devastation wrought by the Torrential rains July 14 and 15. In the pile you can see everything from household appliances to mattresses, comics, photo albums and stuffed animals.
Almost 40,000 buildings damaged and 650 houses destroyed by floods
“When you distinguish a toy, an armchair, you realize that you have people’s lives strewn before your eyes. You take notion of the magnitude of the disaster, that there are thousands of families affected”, He declared to TN.com.ar Caroline Charlier, spokesperson for the public company Spaque, specialized in soil decontamination and in charge of the site.
As reported by the newspaper The evening, in the single region of Wallonia the floods 38,543 buildings were damaged, of which 642 were totally destroyed or uninhabitable. There were facades torn off, houses that collapsed, roads and bridges that disappeared, fallen trees and hundreds of cars that will never start again.
Charlier indicated that in total some 160,000 tons of garbage after the floods in Wallonia. This single stretch of highway concentrates more than half. For days, hundreds of trucks came from various towns in the area to bring these pieces of life torn by the fury of the waters. The rest is spread over two other sites.
Why they decided to use an abandoned highway to accumulate flood debris
The magnitude of the catastrophe also represents a public management challenge. “We had to find solutions a bit ‘out of the box’ ”to manage all that garbage, and use sites to accumulate it like this disused highway, “said environment minister Céline Tellier in an interview with the news agency AFP.
According to Luc Joine, head of one of the waste treatment companies in the area, at first small piles were made by fear that there are corpses of people missing among the rubble. “Only when we were certain that there were no more bodies, that all the disappeared had been found, were we able to put everything together,” he said.
Charlier explained to TN.com.ar that the site of the highway was imposed because “being asphalted, it gives it a tightness that allows limiting soil contamination “, since the waste is potentially contaminated by hydrocarbons. In addition, it is located in a strategic location, in the heart of one of the areas most affected by the floods, which reduces the costs of transporting garbage.
Another advantage is that the closest neighbors are about 500 meters away and the trees that line the route hide the place a bit. According to Charlier, few inhabitants complained: “the majority took this annoyance as a form of solidarity with the people who lost everything”.
They hope to recycle 60% of the garbage from the floods
The authorities expect power recycle up to 60% of garbage: “There is a lot of wood, metal, appliances,” said Charlier. The rest will be incinerated to produce energy or end up buried, he said.
La Spaque estimated that a few nine months to be able to treat all the waste accumulated on the highway. “It is impossible to evacuate such a quantity quickly without collapsing the recycling centers. This way it will be possible to take full advantage of everything that can be recycled and valued ”.
In addition, several precautions must be taken, since in the garbage pile there are dangerous elements, such as bottles that could explode.
The government of Wallonia estimated at 30 million euros the total cost of treating the flood debris. The solutions that were adopted in this case could leave important lessons for the future: according to a study carried out by 39 scientists from the World Weather Attribution (WWA), due to the climate change, the appearance of another extreme phenomenon in this area is up to nine times more likely.
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