Oddly Enough

Hungry mice thwart fix for Brussels' traffic chaos

Cars are seen stuck in a traffic jam on a road heading towards central Brussels during the morning rush hour March 26, 2014. REUTERS/Yves Herman

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - As if the European Union does not have crises enough, now traffic chaos in its congested capital Brussels is being blamed on... hungry mice.

EU leaders gathering for a summit on Thursday to deal with the refugee crisis and British threats to quit the bloc find a city struggling to cope with repeated closures of key road tunnels caused by crumbling concrete and years of decay.

Now the Belgian capital’s regional parliament has been told that repairs are being held up because original construction plans have been destroyed -- apparently eaten by rodents.

The tunnels provide vital arteries across what is often described as Europe’s most traffic-congested city. But for decades the plans for their construction were stored in the pillars under a motorway bridge, for want of space elsewhere.

“They may have been eaten by mice,” the former head of the city’s infrastructure agency told city lawmakers on Wednesday.

The state of the roads in the city of 1.2 million, home to the European Union and NATO headquarters, has become a hot political issue in Belgium, with an estimated bill of some 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) to repair all the tunnels.

Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Katharine Houreld