Extreme rainfall and floods have resulted in numerous deaths in Germany and Belgium. In the Netherlands, property damage remains largely after the heavy storms. Why is that?
The levels are falling, the clean-up work begins, but the shock is deep. The devastating storms in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate cost at least 164 lives up to Monday – in both federal states it cannot be ruled out that more victims could be found.
The emergency services are looking for missing people. Affected fight against the chaos. Did he? A question that is also in public discourse in Belgium – which also has dozens of deaths from heavy rain and floods is gaining momentum .
Flood disaster in Germany
The levels are falling, now we are tackling: How those affected are trying to clear up the chaos
In the Netherlands, the extent of the disaster is different. Although there was also extreme rainfall there, residents were evacuated – Prime Minister Mark Rutte spoke of a ‘national disaster’ . But cities that were practically torn away by the masses of water did not materialize. So far, the Netherlands have not reported any fatalities in the wake of the storms.
Why is the Netherlands comparatively well protected against floods?
The authorities are better prepared, crisis communication is faster, says Jeroen Aerts to the US broadcaster CNN , Professor and Chairman of the Faculty of Water and Climate Risks at Vrije University in Amsterdam. ‘We saw the wave coming better and where it was going,’ Aerts is quoted as saying.
A ‘unique situation’ in the Netherlands
The country can draw on a wealth of experience in the fight against floods and floods. Three major European rivers – the Rhine, the Meuse and the Scheldt – flow through the Netherlands, most of which are below sea level. According to the government, 60 percent of the country is at risk of flooding, according to CNN.
In this respect, the experience of the Netherlands and how the Netherlands dealt with floods can also serve as a blueprint for other countries, states the US broadcaster – especially since extreme weather events as a result of climate change () are likely to occur more frequently in the future.
The corresponding infrastructure in the Netherlands is one of the best in the world, but the real strength lies in its organization. A government agency is responsible for water management, including the construction and maintenance of waterways and other flood protection systems. According to CNN, the General Directorate for Public Works and Water Management, according to the somewhat bulky translation, manages around 1,500 kilometers of artificial defenses.
In addition, there is a network of locally elected bodies whose sole task is also water management – from floods to wastewater. Expert Aerts told CNN about a ‘unique situation’ in the Netherlands: ‘Apart from the national government, the provinces and cities, there is a fourth level, the water boards, which focus entirely on water management.’ And that for centuries: The first local water associations were founded in the city of Leiden in 1255, according to Aerts.
A network that is not so closely linked in other countries. ‘Water plays a role in the tourism sector, it is involved in industry and in the construction sector’, Aerts emphasizes the importance of water management with a view to the Netherlands. The water associations are the ‘glue’ that holds everything together – and can ensure, for example, that a building project on a potential floodplain brings all the relevant parties to the table.
The fact that property damage has largely remained in the Netherlands, however, has to do with other factors – such as the topography: there are more mountainous areas in Germany and Belgium, in which the rainfall poured into the valleys en masse, quoted ‘de Volkskrant’ Jos Teeuwen from the board of the Limburg water authority. Also the ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’ reported. In addition, after major floods in the 1990s, the river banks were widened in many places in order to be able to absorb floods.
After the major floods, the situation is gradually easing. The high water levels in the rivers in the south of the country are now falling quickly, according to the authorities on Monday. The authorities said that the greatest danger for citizens has disappeared. Residents from Venlo near the German border, who had to leave their homes as a precaution, were able to return there. However, the authorities urge vigilance. The dykes could be damaged by the large amounts of water. As soon as the water has sunk, they should be specially checked for weak points.