September 8, 2005


Rethinking Defenses Against Sea's Power (Molly Moore, 9/08/05, Washington Post)

On Feb. 1, 1953, a high-tide storm breached the famed Dutch dikes in more than 450 places. Nearly 1,900 people died, many as they slept. More than 47,000 homes and other buildings were swept away or splintered in the icy inundation.

"We said, 'Never again,' " said Maarten van der Vlist, a senior adviser for the Dutch Directorate of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, which is responsible for the safety of a nation that is the size of Maryland, but half of which lies at or below sea level.

Dutch politicians followed up with a $3 billion, 30-year program to strengthen the protections. The country built an elaborate network of dikes, man-made islands and a

1 1/2 -mile stretch of 62 gates to control the entry and exit of North Sea waters into the country's low-lying southwestern provinces.

But now environmental, engineering and flood experts say those defenses might be insufficient. In the 21st century, population growth and climate change caused by global warming have left the country's interior, through which flow the Rhine, Maas and Schelde rivers, more vulnerable to flooding than ever, they say. High river dikes -- similar to those built in the United States to regulate the Mississippi River -- are now seen more as a contributor to major flooding than a protection against it.

A five-year study due to be published in January is likely to include disturbing new calculations of flood threats to the Netherlands and gaps in the country's readiness, according to experts and government officials familiar with the findings. Major deficiencies in evacuation plans for the most populous Dutch cities are likely to be outlined in the study.

Think the elderly Dutch are going to sacrifice welfare checks to keep the coming Muslim Holland from washing away?

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 8, 2005 6:22 AM
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