Luxembourg floods place small businesses in peril


“If your home had burned down, I would have been fully reimbursed. But not here!” Vincent Saxer says with a smile. The Swiss entrepreneur works in the import and export of products related to car leather repair. He never imagined that he would be so poorly insured against flooding.

“I do not understand why nothing was offered. My insurer told me that a premium would have been too high, given the risks, and nobody would have subscribed,” he said.

On July 22 when the floods struck his home, his wife, Sophie, just had enough time to put their 15-month-old daughter on the first floor, out of harm’s way.

Within ten minutes, he said 1.5 metres of muddy water engulfed their recently renovated farmhouse in Ermsdorf.

The traces of mud are still visible on the white walls of the workshop. The stock is mostly unusable now. The garage where repairs on car leather was carried out is now full of boxes and bric-a-brac to clean. Their van and old 2CV may never run again.

The couple, which is accustomed to working from 7am to midnight every day, had tears in their eyes as they recalled the solidarity of people in the village and local area. “We were on the verge of giving up.”

They were able to replace the materials for their work by contacting providers and they asked their customers, who include Bugatti, McLaren and Mercedes, to be patient.

“A customer is a customer but profits are seriously down. For now, I think the cost of the damage is between 150,000 and 200,000 euros. And to think we were about to employ a second staff member.”

On Monday, Luxembourg’s Secretary of State for the Economy Francine Closener visited the victims of July’s floods and revealed the government is compiling an inventory of the flood damage. A 30-million-euro rescue package was earmarked by the government to help with the costs not covered by insurers. This should enable people and businesses to get back on their feet more quickly.

“The idea is that they start by contacting their insurers. Then they mandate us to obtain this information from the insurers so they don’t have to take additional steps. A committee will then study each case and could issue up to 200,000 euros.

“We should already cover their needs. For anything above this amount, we will look at it on a case by case basis,” said the minister on Monday, refusing to criticise the insurers.

“Gathering as much information about the coverage in the event of an incident like this is the responsibility of the entrepreneur.”

Insurance firms met with the Economy Ministry Monday and said they were ready to move quickly to compensate customers.

According to Luxembourg’s Economy Ministry, 22 firms have already contacted them. Others are urged to get in touch as soon as possible.