Flags flying half-mast as Netherlands commemorates 1953 flood disaster
Flags are flying at half-mast on the Zuid-Holland island of Goeree-Overflakkee on Wednesday to mark the 70th anniversary of the 1953 flood disaster. The municipal council of Goree-Overflakkee appealed to residents and entrepreneurs to take part in the action.
Many flags in the southwest of the Netherlands will also fly at half-mast in memory of the 1,863 people who lost their lives when the dikes broke in the early morning hours of 1 February 1953. Many municipalities in Zeeland, Zuid-Holland, and Noord-Brabant are holding commemorations, silent marches, and wreath-laying ceremonies.
The sea dikes collapsed due to a combination of severe storms and spring tides. The dikes were also not well maintained, leaving them in moderate to poor condition. That was a known problem, but in those years, all the money went to repairing war damage and reconstruction. After the flood disaster, the government drew up the Delta Plan, which led to the Delta Works - storm surge barriers that can close off the estuaries when the tide is high. Due to climate change and sea level rise, it is questionable whether the Delta Works will continue to be sufficient protection for the land behind it.
Princess Beatrix will attend the commemoration in Oude-Tonge on Goeree-Overflakkee. With over 300 victims, this village suffered the most deaths in the disaster.
Minister Mark Harbers of Infrastructure and Water Management will attend the commemoration in Ouwerkerk on Schouwen-Duiveland. At Ouwerkerk, the last hole in a dike was closed in November 1953. The Watersnoodmuseum is now housed in the caissons that were used for this at the time. The museum and the province of Zeeland devote attention to water safety throughout the year, including teaching packages and exhibitions.
Many books and podcasts about the 1953 flood disaster will also be published this year.
Reporting by ANP