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Belgian flood tragedy makes for subdued national day

July 21, 2021 GMT
Belgium's Princess Delphine, center, her husband James O'Hare, left, and Belgium's Prince Laurent, right, take their places on the Royal tribune prior to the National Day parade in Brussels, Wednesday, July 21, 2021. Belgium celebrates its National Day on Wednesday in a scaled down version due to coronavirus, COVID-19 measures. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
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Belgium's Princess Delphine, center, her husband James O'Hare, left, and Belgium's Prince Laurent, right, take their places on the Royal tribune prior to the National Day parade in Brussels, Wednesday, July 21, 2021. Belgium celebrates its National Day on Wednesday in a scaled down version due to coronavirus, COVID-19 measures. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
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Belgium's Princess Delphine, center, her husband James O'Hare, left, and Belgium's Prince Laurent, right, take their places on the Royal tribune prior to the National Day parade in Brussels, Wednesday, July 21, 2021. Belgium celebrates its National Day on Wednesday in a scaled down version due to coronavirus, COVID-19 measures. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

BRUSSELS (AP) — The floods tragedy which left at least 31 dead in Belgium combined with the year-long COVID-19 pandemic is making for a subdued celebration of the country’s national day Wednesday.

King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, wearing face masks, attended a religious ceremony in central Brussels. The public outside the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula were mostly kept at bay for health security reasons.

Even the national parade Wednesday afternoon was reduced in size out of respect for the victims of last week’s unprecedented floods in eastern Belgium, which left a trail of damage and destruction in dozens of town and villages.

Apart from the 31 confirmed dead, security services are still looking for around 50 people that are unaccounted for or couldn’t be contacted. Tuesday was marked as a day of mourning and the traditional party in the heart of Brussels to augur in national day was canceled. There will also be no fireworks to cap the national day late Wednesday.

This year’s military parade was still noteworthy for two things: Crown Princess Elizabeth marched in front of the official tribune from where her beaming parents watched the military cadet. And Princess Delphine, the daughter fathered by former King Albert II out of wedlock, joined the royals for the parade for the first time since they reconciled late last year.