Dutch news in brief, Wednesday 1 July 2009
Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.Train disaster could happen in the Netherlands
AD warns that a train inferno like the one in Italy on Tuesday, in which at least 14 people died and 1000 had to be evacuated, could just as easily happen in the Netherlands. The paper singles out the town of Venlo, in the southern province of Limburg, as a likely disaster site because the shunting yard there is right in the middle of a residential area. Professor of safety and disaster prevention Ben Ale puts “the chance of a similar disaster happening in the Netherlands at one in 200,000.”
And only last week, the Inspectorate of Public Works published a damning report on the laxity with which the rail company Keyrail in the town of Zwijndrecht treats wagons containing hazardous substances. The inspectorate found that a third of the wagons were either wrongly labelled or put together incorrectly. A criminal investigation is underway.
If that weren’t bad enough, according to Trouw, the Dutch medical emergency services are not properly prepared for a disaster. None of the country's 25 ‘security regions’ is able to cope independently with a disaster. For instance, the number of ambulances and hospital beds available is based on normal requirements.
Health Minister Ab Klink and Interior Minister Guusje ter Horst want to improve the situation so that, should disaster strike, there will be enough ambulances to take care of all seriously injured victims within an hour, thus improving survival rates. At the moment only six regions can do this. In practice, neighbouring regions spontaneously help out, as recently seen with the Turkish Airlines crash at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. However, communications between the different regions is less than optimal, which is less than reassuring.
Companies ask staff to take pay cuts
What would you choose: a pay rise with the possibility of hundreds of jobs being lost, or no pay rise in exchange for fewer job losses? That is the altruistic versus selfish question asked on the front page of nrc.next. As the recession continues, companies are becoming more creative with ways to survive the crisis. KLM pilots, for instance, have been asked to help out with baggage handling, while others are acting as hosts in airport lounges. The managing director of British Airways has asked his staff to work for nothing for a month, leading the way himself. Seven thousand BA employees have already volunteered to work without pay.
There is, however, no guarantee that such measures will indeed save jobs. HP Nederland asked its employees in February to accept a five or 10 percent pay cut but this month announced another 302 jobs have to go, on top of the 421 jobs lost last year.
Postal company TNT and chain store V&D both failed to reach a deal on pay cuts in exchange for job guarantees with the unions. Instead, both companies sent surveys to their workforces in June asking which they would prefer: less pay or more jobs, to which the unions have responded ‘foul play’. They say, “If you ask people on the street, they are bound to be prepared to hand in their wages. They are scared of losing their jobs.” It seems we are headed for a summer of discontent.
Plastic surgeons under fire
A plastic surgeon whose private clinic in The Hague was shut down by the health inspectorate last Friday says he “wants to put things right,” but his former patients may not let him. AD tells the tale of 23-year-old Lindsey, who after six years of indecision finally took the plunge and went to the clinic for breast enlargement surgery. She was one of at least nine patients to suffer serious complications there. She returned to the surgeon with a swelling in her breast, to be told that it was normal, but seven weeks later he decided the implant should be removed. By then, Lindsey had lost confidence and refused to let him operate on her again.
When she finally found a hospital that would treat her, the doctor was shocked by what he saw. The implants were removed plus a proportion of her breast tissue. Lindsey has been left with smaller breasts than before and is waiting for reconstruction treatment for her mutilated mammaries.
The same paper reports that a Dutch model, Karen Mulder, has been arrested for making threatening phone calls to her plastic surgeon. The paper does not go into the details of her surgery but reveals she demanded restoration treatment.
Tears as youngsters embark on new lives
There are emotional scenes across the country as 12-year-olds bid farewell to their primary schools and friends. Traditionally, Dutch children in their final year at primary school put on a musical to entertain their younger peers and impress their parents. De Volkskrant prints a picture of girls at a school in the northern town of Wieringerwerf hugging and crying in a makeshift dressing room in the school gymnasium. Next year, they will go their separate ways to different secondary schools, having been selected according to their ability.
De Volkskrant also reports on other young people spreading their wings. Apparently, student houses are becoming a thing of the past. More and more housing corporations are instead building single flats for students. No more shared kitchens piled high with housemates’ washing up; no more other people’s mouldy food in the fridge and no more queuing to use the bathroom!
And the reason? Since 1997 students in accommodation with shared facilities do not qualify for housing benefits, whereas those who rent an individual flat do. “You try telling a student they have to pay more for shared facilities,” suggests student accommodation advisor Remco de Maaijer.
Lucky escape for daft driver
A woman driver had a close shave when she reversed on a bridge as it opened to allow boats through. De Telegraaf prints a photograph of her little blue car teetering on the edge of the Haringvliet Bridge on the A29 motorway near Rotterdam. The bridge had already been raised four metres into the air when the bridge master noticed the woman’s precarious position.
The driver was able to escape from the vehicle without assistance but the police had to rescue her dog from the back of the car. Police have decided to let her off for driving through a red light. “She’s had enough punishment,” said a police spokesperson.
Radio Netherlands / Nicola Chadwick / Expatica