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Tuesday, September 15, 1998 Published at 22:02 GMT 23:02 UK

World: Europe

Low country floods claim first victim

Dozens of villages remain cut off

Floods in Belgium have claimed their first victim after a woman drowned in her car after losing control of the vehicle.

As torrential rain continued in parts of Holland and Belgium, low lying areas of the two countries saw entire communities cut off as flood waters rose.

South-western Holland and central and western Belgium have been the worst hit, after around 10cm of rain fell over the weekend.

Some areas recorded almost 15cm of rain in 12 hours.

[ image: Train services around Antwerp were disrupted]
Train services around Antwerp were disrupted
A state of emergency has been declared in several regions of Belgium and the army has been drafted in to deal with breaches in dikes.

Volunteers have also been mobilised to strengthen flood defences but some areas have reported that drinking water has been contaminated.

Flooded streets have been closed in several towns, and mudslides and power cuts have been reported.

A hospital has been abandoned and dozens of villages are cut off.

In the Belgian city of Sint-Truiden near the Dutch border, the authorities called on citizens to boil water before drinking it after bacteria polluted supplies.

Railways around the Belgian city of Antwerp and cross-channel ferries to England have also been affected.

The BBC's Europe correspondent, David Shukman, who is at the scene, says some have criticised the authorities for responding too slowly.

But ministers say that no-one could have prepared for the downpour of the last few days.

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