70th Anniversary of North Sea flood that killed 1,836 in the Netherlands approaching
February 1 will mark 70 years since the dikes along the Zeeland and Zuid-Holland islands broke during the spring tide combined with a severe southwesterly storm. A disastrous flood resulted, in which 1,836 people died mainly in Zeeland, Zuid-Holland and Noord-Brabant, but also in Noord-Holland.
The disaster of 1953 will be commemorated in the coming period in each of the provinces involved. Approximately 150,000 hectares of land disappeared under water, and tens of thousands of homes were destroyed.
Public broadcaster NTR will air episodes from a documentary series on each of the following four Fridays, starting on January 6. The series is called Het water komt, or The Water Comes, and will be presented by Winfried Baijens who is originally from Zeeland.
The four-part documentary includes archival footage and eyewitness accounts. The broadcasts will explain how the disaster happened in the first place, why the danger was insufficiently recognized in advance and what has been learned in the decades since the flood disaster. NTR has also produced seven podcasts from cities that also once had to deal with flooding, such as Nijmegen, Marken, Valkenburg and Zwolle.
Herman van der Zandt will present five daily short broadcasts on NOS after the 8 p.m. news starting on January 30. He will take viewers back to 1953, the NOS said. His episodes will examine what happened, how the Netherlands learned about it, and the organization of relief efforts amid the devastation. Van der Zandt will be assisted by reporter Martijn Bink and experts.
On February 1, Princess Beatrix, will attend the commemoration in Oude-Tonge on Goeree-Overflakkee where 305 people died. Beatrix's mother, Juliana, was five years into her reign as Queen of the Netherlands when the tragedy happened. Beatrix will visit the church service and a wreath-laying, and will then speak with survivors of the disaster and their relatives.
The commemoration will be broadcast live on NOS, but the broadcaster's presenters will provide coverage from Schouwen-Duiveland in Ouwerkerk at the Watersnoodmuseum, the national flood museum, and the country's national monument dedicated to the flood, where a large ceremony will be held.
The last deep breach in the sea dike was closed in Ouwerkerk. This year, a QR code will be placed at all 96 of the breaches in Zeeland and Zuid-Holland so tourists can read exactly what happened at that location on the night of the disaster between late on January 31 and early on February 1.
Almost all villages and municipalities involved in the flood disaster also hold their own commemoration on February 1. The Watersnoodmuseum will open an exhibition linking objects from that time to people. Schools can also receive education material, and lectures and symposiums will be published throughout the year.
"The future of water is also explicitly discussed. Because how the Netherlands deals with water is more topical than ever," said Watersnoodmuseum director Siemco Louwerse.
Reporting by ANP