By G9ija

Belgium’s crisis center has said traveling to the flood-hit regions of the country, where many Belgians have holiday homes, could scupper search and rescue operations.

Flooding has ravaged large parts of southern and eastern Belgium

Belgian officials warned against all travel to the country’s flood-ravaged regions as one of the country’s leading newspapers reported that the death toll had risen to 23 nationwide.

Le Soir, a national centrist daily, cited government sources as saying more fatalities had been confirmed.

Overnight, the number of confirmed deaths stood at 12. 

Wallonia, Belgium’s largely French-speaking region, is among one of the worst-affected areas where more than 21,000 people are currently without electricity.

“Avoid traveling to the affected provinces,” the Belgian crisis center, which handles major emergencies, said in a statement. 

“Many roads are flooded or dangerous. Do not travel to the area. You could endanger yourself and/or hinder the work of the emergency services,” the statement said.

The regions concerned are mainly in the south and east of Belgium.

Elio di Rupo, who leads Wallonia’s regional government, told the RTBF broadcaster that the death toll could rise further.

“Yesterday [Thursday] evening, hundreds of people were still trapped in their homes,” he said in an interview.

Paramedics, police and the military have been dispatched to those areas to help with rescue and evacuation operations.

Federal police said dozens of road and rail connections across the entire region remain closed.

Liege, one of the most populous cities in Belgium, has been ravaged by floods

The high-speed Thalys train link between Belgium and Germany, which has borne the brunt of the floods, has been suspended until further notice.

“The waters are rising more and more. It’s scary,” said Thierry Bourgeois, a 52-year-old resident of Liege.

City, local authorities had called on Thursday afternoon for those living close to the banks of the nearby Meuse River to leave their homes.

Luxembourg and the Netherlands have also been battered by heavy rains.

Thousands of people have been told to evacuate in the southern Dutch province of Limburg with Dutch troops arriving to assist.

On Thursday, the Dutch government formally ruled that the flooded area a disaster zone.

It means residents who have lost homes or belongings can officially seek some compensation from the government if their insurance does not cover the losses.

Intense rain in Switzerland led the country’s weather service to warn that flooding would worsen in the coming days.

Forecasters predicted that there was a high risk of flooding on Lake Biel, Lake Thun and Lake Lucerne, adding that landslides remained a possibility.