Dutch cancel flights, close dykes as storm looms
Dutch national carrier KLM said it has scrapped 84 flights to and from Amsterdam's Schiphol airport scheduled for Thursday after forecasters sounded a "code orange" extreme weather warning for the next 24 hours.
The Netherlands is preparing for heavy storms with surging tides and winds predicted to gust up to 130 km/h (81 miles per hour) in places in the north.
In the south, the landmark Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier has been closed off for the first time in six years, public broadcaster NOS reported.
"As a result of the extreme weather expected, we have cancelled 84 flights to and from Amsterdam," KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) spokesman Joost Ruempol told AFP.
"These are flights going to and coming in from across the continent," he added.
Inter-continental flights will go ahead as scheduled, but travellers flying KLM to European destinations are advised to check for regular updates on the airline's website, Ruempol said.
Schiphol is Europe's fourth-busiest airport with between 120,000 to 140,000 passengers passing through daily.
The storm will approach the Netherlands from the west and was a result of a low-pressure system over Norway, bringing extreme weather to the Dutch coast by Thursday afternoon, the weather website weer.nl said.
Coupled with a spring tide, high winds could result in a heavy storm surge and in many places, the Dutch have been taking measures including raising dykes and moving vehicles away from piers and quays.
The Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier, part of fortifications to protect the low-lying Netherlands from the North Sea, has been closed off for the first time since 2007, the NOS said.
The flood barrier is part of the so-called Delta Works which were built after disastrous floods in 1953 which left almost 2,000 people dead.
Back then, sea defences were overwhelmed and dykes broke as a result of heavy storms, putting large swathes of the southern Dutch province of Zeeland under water.
A code orange warning is one level below a "code red alert" -- given out by the Royal Dutch Meterological Institute (KNMI) for the worst possible weather conditions.
© 2013 AFP