Skaters rescued from Amsterdam canal after falling through thin ice

Ice skating on Amsterdam canals
Skaters in Amsterdam take to the canals after a cold snap. Feb. 13, 2012.. (photo: Zack Newmark / NL Times)

Two skaters fell through too thin ice on the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam on Thursday. One managed to get out of the water himself, the other had to be rescued. Bob Maas, the unofficial ice master of the Dutch capital, thinks that the ice on the canals will be thick enough to skate on safely over the weekend, Het Parool reports.

On Thursday Waternet warned that it is not yet safe to skate on the Dutch capital's canals. But still some daredevils decided to give it a shot. Two of them were unlucky. They fell through the ice on Prinsengracht around 3:15 p.m., according to the newspaper.  The fire department and an air ambulance were deployed.

One skater managed to get out of the water himself and tried to help the other skater, but to no avail. Amsterdam city photographer Thomas Schlijper eventually pulled her out of the icy water through the window of an houseboat.

Schlijper was looking for some nice shots when he saw the skaters go through the ice. "It was a beautiful image, the black silhouettes with the backlight on the white ice", he said to Het Parool. But suddenly they disappeared. Schlijper rushed to a houseboat next to where the skaters disappeared. By that time only the woman was still in the water. On the houseboat he found two women, staring shocked. "I thought: nobody is going to do something. A photo doesn't make sense. Away with the camera."

He leaned through the window and pulled the woman out. "She was still conscious, but of course very shocked." He left her in the houseboat when he heard sirens approaching.

Bob Maas thinks that the ice on the canals may be thick enough to skate on over the weekend. He's been measuring the ice every day since Waternet closed some of the canals to boating traffic. "It closed more quickly than I thought. There are parts where the ice quality is good, where it goes to 10 centimeters", he said to Het Parool. But there are still many places where no ice has formed. 

Getting onto the ice now is a bad idea, according to Maas. He calls on skating enthusiasts to be patient. "It could well be that a skate on the canal can be done safely on Saturday."