Is the Netherlands waterproof?
A major five-day flood disaster exercise involving about 10,000 civil servants and rescue workers throughout the Netherlands kicked off on Monday.A major five-day flood disaster exercise involving about 10,000 civil servants and rescue workers throughout the Netherlands kicked off on Monday.
The disaster practice has been given the name ‘Waterproef' which, although it sounds like the English ‘waterproof', actually means water-test. It is designed to show whether councils, provincial administrations and government institutions would be able to pull together well enough in the face of the worst imaginable flood disaster. A man in my train carriage this morning phoned his work to explain that the train was running late: " It's something to do with this disaster practice thing," he said. He seemed unaware that most of the exercise will be confined to offices where administrators will be faced with hypothetical questions on issues such as large-scale evacuations and rehousing. Today's emergency scenario involves a severe storm in the North Sea, coupled with high spring tides, high seas, massive waves and rivers bursting their banks. Later in the week, exercises will centre on problems such as an unexpected breach in a dyke near Lelystad to the east of Amsterdam. People in just a few areas are going to be directly affected by disaster simulations. In the central Dutch town of Leerdam, 200 people will take part in an evacuation exercise, and a rescue demonstration is being held near Nijkerk to the northeast of Utrecht. Emergency sandbags will be laid at two weak spots in the sea-defence dunes near Katwijk on the coast north of The Hague. The idea of a nationwide flood exercise was prompted by the disaster which occurred in New Orleans in the United States when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. Jan Franssen of the Taskforce Management Flooding seems pleased with the scale of the exercise. "Everyone is taking part, from the mayor of the smallest town to the prime minister," he explains. Mike WilcoxRadio Netherlands