The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has paid tribute to the work of fire service personnel across Europe who have been dealing with the fallout of devastating flooding. Residents in Germany, France, Austria and the Czech Republic have witnessed the worst flooding in decades which has led to the deaths of at least 13 people, including one firefighter who died during rescue attempts after a storm hit the German town of Schwaebisch Gmuend.
In Paris, the river Seine threatened to burst its banks which led officials to close the historic Louvre gallery temporarily whilst priceless artworks were removed. Rescue workers there said they had responded to 10,000 calls and evacuated more than 5,000 people to safety.
The unions’ general secretary Matt Wrack said he “watched with horror” as the events unfolded. In a letter to the European public services trade union EPSU he wrote: “We have also witnessed with pride the activities of firefighters alongside other emergency workers rescuing people in distress, evacuating those in danger and protecting the communities they serve with such distinction. Again firefighters have shown the irreplaceable work we do in responding to all kinds of hazards.
“Firefighters across the UK have been tackling flooding far more frequently in recent years – notably in December 2015, during the winter of 2013-14 and in 2007. The FBU has been campaigning with the Westminster and devolved governments to secure more operational firefighters and control room staff, better equipment and training, the provision of health, safety and welfare safeguards, and other improvements to help the fire and rescue service tackle flooding.
“The FBU believes that the incidence of flooding is likely to increase due to climate change. Adapting to this flooding requires a pan-European approach as well as improvements funded by national governments and local authorities throughout Europe.”