Ten streets were evacuated in Flanders on Monday afternoon after concerns of asbestos in the air following a house fire.
The fire started just after 12 in a house on the Kroonlaan in Hoeilaart, a municipality in Flemish Brabant, reports Het Nieuwsblad.
The building at number 10 – which had caught fire – had asbestos plates on the roof. When the fire department of Overijse arrived on the scene, the old house was already ablaze.
Asbestos – used in construction for much of the 20th century – can be found in cement sheets, roof adhesives, floor tiles and even drywall. It was commonly used to insulate attics, wall gaskets and wiring. While it is considered safe when left undisturbed, as products are damaged or wear down over time, toxic asbestos fibres are released into the air.
When a person inhales or swallows airborne asbestos fibres, they can become lodged in the body permanently. Over many years, these fibres damage cells, cause inflammation and has been linked to cancer such as mesothelioma.
As a result of the health risk posed by the asbestos, the council of Hoeilaart enacted the municipal disaster plan. That is a standard procedure, which led to ten streets in the immediate vicinity of the Kroonlaan being evacuated.