29 January 2004
AMSTERDAM — Emergency work to repair a damaged canal dike in southern Limburg encountered continued delays on Thursday. Most of the 543 evacuated residents were told they cannot yet return to their homes due to continued concerns of flooding.
The ship that was carrying materials to help strengthen the subsided dike — near the city of Stein — returned with its load to the city’s harbour on Thursday, meaning that work has not yet started to insert the reinforcing steel plates into the ground along the 10m stretch of dike that subsided on Tuesday.
The Department of Pubic Works and Water Management had earlier said it was concerned that earth movements from the hammering in of the steel plates could further damage the dike. It was placing measuring equipment to determine what effect the work will have on the dike.
Earlier attempts to plug the dike hole with clay failed because the material didn’t “grab” and simply washed out, an NOS news report said.
The precise reason for the return of the ship to Stein, near Maastricht, was not immediately known, but Staff of GeoDelft — a renowned geotechnical engineering institute — continued taking samples of sand from the damaged top of the Julianakanaal dike.
Part of the Stein dike subsided on Tuesday afternoon and authorities cancelled all shipping on the Julianakanaal, an important shipping route through the province of Limburg. Residents were evacuated and sandbags were placed into the gap in the dike overnight to prevent its collapse.
The water level in the canal was lowered by about 1.2m to reduce pressure on the dike wall and allow inspectors to examine the dike on Wednesday morning.
The department of water management said the dike was “seriously undermined” and admitted that it had last been inspected on Tuesday morning. But no areas of concern had been detected during the Tuesday inspection.
A dike expert with the Delft Technical University has since said the dike subsidence could be the result of the drying out of the dike, which largely consists of clay. The dike wall might also have been too steep.
Meanwhile, residents have alerted the department of water management to the existence of other leaks in the dike, including one located near the village of Elsloo. The department is inspecting the leaks, but expects that they are water seeping out of the dike’s drainage system, representing no danger.
But Stein Mayor Ed Meijer could not guarantee that evacuated residents would be allowed to return to their homes on Thursday. “We need more time to secure the area. The message is not pleasant, but safety takes priority,” he said.
Meijer also said it was possible that small groups would be allowed to return to their homes to collect necessary belongings, similar to what occurred on Wednesday evening. Most evacuees are staying with family or friends.
The mayor did have a surprise up his sleeve though: about 50 residents of 20 homes located on the Kelderstraat and the Violensteeg would be allowed to return to home. Their houses were slightly higher than the rest of the threatened neighbourhood.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news