Netherlands rings in a foggy 2020 with fireworks and car fires; multiple aid workers harassed

A heavy explosive detonates in Amsterdam, 31 December 2019
A heavy explosive detonates in Amsterdam, 31 December 2019NL TimesNL Times

At midnight the Netherlands rang in 2020 with firework shows in Rotterdam and The Hague, where the thick fog cleared just in time. While Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus said he feared a "wild west party" this New Year's, there were no major incidents. There were, however, a very large number of car fires, especially in The Hague region, and multiple incidents of aid workers and first responders being attacked or harassed, according to various Dutch media. 

The Hague was expected to be very restless over New Year's, given riots and incidents in Duindorp and Scheveningen after the annual New Year's bonfires were canceled. There were no major riots, though the police did bar access to Duindorp as a precaution. There were a massive number of car fires, however. By 1:30 a.m. a total of 64 car fires were reported in and around The Hague, according to Omroep West. For comparison, last New Year's the city counted 28 car fires. 

At this stage there is not yet a complete overview of all incidents in the country, but the police had to intervene in multiple places. For example, riot police were deployed to a car fire in Utrecht to assist aid workers who were being pelted with fireworks in the Kanaleneiand district. First responders also had fireworks thrown at them in Vianen, De Bilt, Ede, Zeist and, The Hague, among others, according to NOS. 

Fire departments also had their hands full with other types of fires. A man and a 4-year-old boy were killed, and a woman and girl seriously injured, in an apartment building fire in Arnhem. In Bovenkarspel, Noord-Holland, the historical Ceres windmill from 1848 went up in flames. In Veendam there was a fire in an empty store, in IJsselstein in an old school, and in Amsterdam in a paper storage center, according to NU.nl.

Despite thick fog, the National Fireworks Show from the Erasmusbrug in Rotterdam happened as planned. The fireworks at Hofvijver in The Hague also happened, but the show in Deventer had to be canceled. 

People in the Netherlands bought a record amount of fireworks for New Year's, according to interest association Pyrotechnics Netherlands. A massive 77 million euros were spent on fireworks, 10 percent more than in 2018. 

The thick fog not only hindered fireworks plans in many areas in the Netherlands, but also caused multiple car accidents. One person was killed and 19 injured in a pile-up in Friesland. Meteorological institute KNMI issued a code red warning at one point, saying that visibility was reduced to less than 10 meters in some places in Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe. A code yellow warning was still in effect for most of the country on New Year's day. 

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