Dutch officials blasted over New Year ‘firenadoes’
Dutch authorities underestimated the risk from a huge New Years’ Eve beach bonfires that sparked “firenadoes” and rained burning embers on a seaside resort, a safety board report said Thursday.
It also slammed organisers for exceeding height limits with the 45-metre (147 feet) tall bonfires at Scheveningen, a suburb of The Hague, and then pouring barrels of diesel on them.
Fanned by strong winds, the blazes sent flaming vortexes careering along the beach, forcing thousands of revellers to flee and starting small fires nearby which caused “substantial damage,” the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) said.
“The municipality of The Hague and the fire department underestimated the risk,” the board report said.
Despite residents’ concerns about the previous year’s bonfire “the signals were not translated into safety measures.”
Building huge bonfires from stacks of pallets on the beach is a yearly tradition among Scheveningen residents, who compete with the rival suburb of Duindorp, across the harbour which is the traditional home of the Dutch fishing fleet.
It forms part of wild Dutch New Year’s revelry, which also involves setting off masses of fireworks.
But the safety board said organisers did not adhere to height restrictions which limited the bonfires to 35 metres (114 feet).
“The OVV has calculated that a height of 45.2 to 47.0 metres was reached, violating this provision by at least 10 metres,” it said.
The Hague’s mayor Pauline Krikke also came under fire as she was informed that restrictions had been broken but decided not to interfere fearing “a fight between revellers and the riot police”, the daily De Volkskrant said.
Krikke said the city would now only agree to bonfires next year if they were held under strict conditions.