Great Floods of The Netherlands

Great Floods of The Netherlands

Great Floods of The Netherlands

1. Introduction

This study intends to give an overview of the 1953 inundations in the Netherlands. The following subdivisions will concentrate on:

  • The historical events that happened before the inundations and lead to the calamity.
  • The climatic fortunes that induced the catastrophe.
  • The effects the inundation had on the state along with the deliverance procedure that followed.
  • And eventually on the recovery of the state along with the bar methods that were adopted in order to forestall future catastrophes.

2. Conditionss Before the Flood

This subdivision provides of import information about the grounds that lead to the 1953 catastrophe. It will exemplify how combinations of different factors

2.1. Geography of the Netherlands

The Netherlands are located in the North-Western portion of Europe ; as a consequence its full West seashore is really vulnerable to the high magnitude air current and moving ridges of North Sea. In add-on about one half of its entire country as state has an lift which is less than 1m above mean sea degree and from that more that 60 % lies below the average sea H2O degree. These facts make the state really susceptible to sea implosion therapy.

Figure 1: The Netherlands above and below sea degree [ Source: Deltawerken ]

2.2. History of inundations

As a consequence of its geographical place The Netherlands were ever prone to sea implosion therapy. Over the past millenary the seashores of The Netherlands have been repeatedly flooded. Historical certification of the inundations exists from every bit early as 838B.C. The most of import inundations that were documented are summarised in the following tabular array.

Table 1: Massive inundations in the Netherlands [ Source: EWA ]

These inundations resulted in 1000s of lost lives and even more losingss in farm animal and other agricultural assets ( Schipper, 2000 ) . As a consequence the state constructed legion flood-defences that over the old ages were reinforced and modified in order to suit for the increasing safety demands.

2.3. Condition of the Sea Defense mechanisms

In 1929, Rijkswaterstaat ( Department of Waterways and Public Works ) initiated a national probe that would measure the status of all butchs in the state by 1934 the survey was finished and concluded that:

  • That the bulk of the butchs in the Delta part ( South-Western of the Netherlands ) needed to be raised. As the tallness of most of the levees was merely that of the highest recorded H2O degree plus a freeboard of 0.5m ( Battjes & A ; Gerritsen, 2002 ) .
  • Both the downwind side and sea side inclines of the revetments were excessively steep.
  • The dirt on which many of the butchs were built was peat ( Van Veen, 1962 ) which in periods of high differential force per unit area ( H2O degree of the sea relation to groundwater degree behind the butch ) could take to entire prostration.

Unfortunately a few old ages subsequently the Second World War started and the plants for bettering the sea-defences were halted until the terminal of the war. After the war the Dutch authorities needed non merely to better the sea-revetments but besides to construct new 1s, as many of them were destroyed during the bombardments ( Mark Zuehlke, 2010 ) . In add-on the big parts of the state were enduring from the phenomenon of “blackish water” which is the consequence of the taint of groundwater with salt H2O ( see figure 2 ) . This resulted in large losingss in agricultural production. The Dutch authorities was hence more interested in deciding the blackish H2O job instead than bettering the butchs because:

  • Major inundations had non occurred in old ages and hence citizens were non really concerned with that danger.
  • It was indispensable for their WW2 recover scheme to maintain the agricultural industry healthy.
  • Not adequate financess were available to work out all jobs at the same time as the state was still retrieving from the war.

Figure 2: The Netherlands going blackish [ Beginning: Deltawerken ]

3. Environmental Conditionss on 1stof February 1953

The 1953 storm was non of really large magnitude. What made it so lay waste toing was that its path and continuance ; as it passed really near to the shore. “From the Atlantic, it moved east to the North of Scotland after which it curved aggressively southbound to propagate into the German Bight and so proceeded in a southeasterly way over land” ( Gerritsen, 2005 ) . Harmonizing to Wolf et Al ( 2005 ) the storm had a 1 in 50 twelvemonth event whereas the rush was 1 in 100 twelvemonth event. This resulted in stronger air currents of longer continuance that in bend created a much higher storm rush ( see figure 3 ) . One more of import factor that resulted in the big graduated table amendss on the sea-defences and dominating events is that this rush occurred at the clip of high H2O spring-tide. The combination of these effects resulted in the H2O degrees in surplus of 5 m is some coastal parts ( De Ronde & A ; Gerritsen, 1989 ) . It besides believed that even higher H2O lift were experienced in countries farther inland due to H2O funnelling effects.

Figure 7Figure 6

Figure 3: Left: The difference between maximal H2O degree and upper limit predicted tide tallness during the 1953 storm computed utilizing the POL CS3 theoretical account. Right: Map of important moving ridge tallness for clip of maximal moving ridge height in the southern North Sea. [ beginning: J Wolf and R.A Flather,2005 ]

4. Damagess from the Flood and Recovery

This chapter will supply a description of the immediate effects caused by the 1953 storm. It will supply historical information of the long term effects this inundation had and supply a brief overview of the effects neighboring states besides suffered. Finally, an overview of the deliverance procedure will be provided.

4.1. The impact stage

The peak H2O degree occurred between 3am-4am and hence even though legion warnings were issued, merely a few occupants of the Delta part were informed. This was because the event occurred during a weekend and at a clip of twenty-four hours when the wireless was non conveying ( Herman Gerritsen, 2005 ) . In add-on even though the Government had exigency programs for when the butchs were overtopped no 1 had a eventuality program for the scenario at which butchs were breached ( Slager, 1992 ) . The above two factors in combination with the breaching of the sea-defences were the chief factors of the catastrophe. In add-on many illustrations of bad determinations have besides been reported by historiographers, which worsted the effects. One illustration of bad opinion call by the local determination shapers is the “Herkingen event” . During that forenoon a little breach occurred at the local butch in Herkingen which resulted in minor inundations in the country. At the clip of ebb tide, a member of the Dike Council ( determination organic structure responsible for the local butchs ) decided that the chitchat should be widened in order to let the H2O to run out out of the polder. His actions finally lead to the implosion therapy of the full country behind the revetment ( Slager, 2003 ) .

It is easy to understand that the desolation in the affected countries became even worst when the 2nd tide arrived. This was because the breaches were enlarged during the H2O retreat of the ebb tide ( at which H2O speeds are even higher than during the flood period ) . This resulted in large chitchat in the sea-defences that allowed H2O to hotfoot in the polders mush quicker compared to the first clip.

Harmonizing to appraisals of studies carried out after the inundation event it was concluded that 1,835people were killed 70,000 more were forced to evacuate. Floods covered 9 % of Dutch farming area, and sea H2O flooded 1,365km? of land. An estimated 30,000 animate beings drowned, and 47,300 edifices were damaged, of which 10,000 were destroyed. Entire harm was estimated at 1 billion Dutch guldens ( Watersnoodmuseum, 2013 )

Figure 4: Butch breaches ( indicated with ruddy pointers ) and inundations countries ( indicated by dark blue ) caused by the 1953 storm [ Source: Deltawerken ]

It should be mentioned that the above mentioned figures would be of much higher graduated table if Nieuwerkerk aan de Ijssel butch merely east of Rotterdam was non salvaged by the locals. Harmonizing to Herman Gerritsen ( 2005 ) between the two tides the city manager of Rotterdam detected a breach in the levee and ordered the captain of a nearby standing vas to drop it in forepart of the chitchat. This allowed the local governments to win clip and mend the dike. The above mentioned determination saved about three million people who lived in the dumbly populated country of Rotterdam and Holland Zuid.

Figure 5: Left: Picture from the ship that was sacrificed in order to protect the metropolis of Rotterdam [ beginning: WL|Delft Fluid mechanicss ( now named Deltares ) , Delft ] , Right: One of the butch breaches [ beginning: Rijkswaterstaat ]

4.2. Rescue Procedure

After the 2nd tide retreated, the storm already had started to quiet down. This allowed the Waterss to flux back to the sea and most of the afloat countries were relieved from the implosion therapy ( Slager 1992, 2003 ) . Unfortunately, the salt H2O had already created big amendss. Except of the direct casualties and amendss caused from the inundation. The low prevarication parts of the Delta part had to cover with dozenss of dust, damaged substructure such as roads Bridgess locks and flood-defences and for one time blackish H2O phenomena. Volunteers from all around the state instantly arrived to the afloat parts to assist, conveying with them big volumes of first assistance equipment, nutrient, fresh H2O and medical specialty. As most of the region’s substructure was destroyed this created big logistic jobs as the few staying roads became concentrated and local warehouses were first assistance supplies were being stored got filled up with supplies that were non of first precedence for the effected. This made even more hard the emptying catastrophe alleviation operations. For this ground it was decided that less accomplished parts should besides be evacuated in order to do easier the logistics ( Slager 1992 ) . Besides at this phase it was decided to take from cadavers from the affected countries in order to cut down the hazard of epidemics. It should be mentioned that considerable aid was provided from abroad. The Red Cross and many member provinces of NATO helped with equipment and worker the state to cut down the impacts of the inundation every bit much as possible.

Figure 6: Left: Attempts to make full in the breaches [ beginning: Rijkswaterstaat ] , Right: human-centered aid from the Dutch subdivision of the Red Cross [ Source: DeltaWerken ]

It was indispensable to the deliverance procedure to mend every bit fast as possible the breached levees in order to halt the tide coming in. This non merely hardened the deliverance procedure but besides caused further broadening of the chitchat and farther taint of the land H2O. For that ground the flood-defence fixs were carried out at the same time with the hunt and deliverance activities. Harmonizing to Van der Ham ( 2003 ) by the terminal of February more than 60 breaches were batched up. As the double tide gestures had scoured off big parts of the staying breaches the work of mending them became much more complicated. For that ground big coffers used for the Normandy invasion were decided to be used as the building of new one would be really dearly-won and clip consuming. The coffers would be sank in topographic point in order to halt the tides, but due to their tremendous dimension experimental surveies needed to be made in order to find how they would be manoeuvred in topographic point. For that ground big graduated table modeling was conducted at Delft Hydraulics. Harmonizing to a Rijkswaterstaat of 1961 the last accomplished country has pumped dry by the December 31stof 1953.

5. Recovery

This subdivision will supply the information sing the actions that the Netherlands took in order to cut down the hazard of inundations in the hereafter.

5.1. Formation of the Delta Committee

A few yearss after the catastrophe viz. , on the 21stof February, the Delta Committee was established. The end of this group was to guarantee that such a natural catastrophe would ne’er happen of all time once more. Very of import specializers comprised this commission such as:

  • V. J. P. deBlocq new wave Kuffele, main applied scientist of the Zuyderzee closing
  • J. Th. Thijsse, manager of Delft Hydraulics
  • J. Tinbergen, economic expert who won the Nobel value a few old ages subsequently

Based on the instructions they were given by the Minister of Public works it was concluded that they had a double purpose, viz. ( Gerritsen, 2005 ) :

1. Drain the countries that flood on a regular basis during high H2O degrees and protect them from the H2O,

2. Protect the land from acquiring brackish.

By May of the same twelvemonth the Delta Committee had created its first recommendations. This would be called the Delta Plan. Harmonizing to this strategic program the Schouwens Dike had to be raised by 2 m meters and Hollandse Ijssel recess demand to be closed by agencies of a movable dike that could protect the low prevarication from rushs but at the same clip could let entree to transportation.

This program was updated over the following old ages in order to guarantee that the state would be flood cogent evidence. The most of import recommendations are summarised in the following tabular array.


Location and Proposed Work


Storm rush barrier in the Hollandse Ijssel


Daming the Zandkreek


Daming the Veerse Gat


Daming the Grevelingen


Daming the Volkerak


Daming the Haringvliet


Daming the Brouwershavense Gat


Daming the Eastern Schelde


Flood-control dike and lock in the Oude Maas

Table 2: Flood protection steps of the Delta Plan in order of executing precedence

The last of the plants of the Delta Plan were finished on 1986 when Queen Beatrix inaugurated the Eastern Schelde barrier. The ground of the hold of this inundation protection step was that in 1975 public consciousness sing environmental issues shifted the precedences of the Delta Committee. This forced the alteration of the building programs of the Easter Schelde dike in order to do it more environmentally friendly. This would be accomplished by making a barrier that would shut merely when big rushs were expected ; this design allowed the tide to travel freely in and out of the estuary under normal conditions and did non interrupt the local vegetations and zoologies of the country. As can be understood from the above, 1975 signalled a alteration of the Delta Committee’s doctrine from a purely “hydraulic technology construction” attack to a more environmentally friendly attack with an disposition to sustainable and resilient solutions.

5.2. The Sustainable Coastal Development Committee

After the plants of the delta commission were completed the Netherlands were assured that the inundation hazard was non a major menace. As the danger of implosion therapy was less acute the precedences of the commission changed. Harmonizing to the Delta committee’s imperativeness release of 2008 the basic norms steering their determinations are now:

  • Moral picks ( do we stay jointly responsible for H2O safety ; how do we specify safety degrees in relation to people, economic system, environment )
  • Aspirations ( the Netherlands retains its attractive life environment, sustainability as a guiding rule, handiness of quality of surface and imbibing H2O )
  • Execution procedures ( safety as a cardinal aim, integrated and multifunctional solutions, flexibleness )

Harmonizing to these norms the new delta commission has drafted the following 11 recommendations ( Delta Commissie, 2008 ) in order to guarantee that the mid ( until 2050 ) and long ( after 2050 ) term hereafter of the Netherlands is assured to be flood cogent evidence and sustainable.

  1. Important countries should be protected with Delta butchs ( monolithic butchs that have a virtually zero chance of failure ) .
  2. Flood protection degrees should be evaluated and revised consequently every twelvemonth.
  3. The determination to construct in low-lying countries should be based on cost benefit analyses that histories for both present and future costs. It is besides indispensable for the new developments non to go through the extra costs related with them to the remainder of the society ; these costs must be covered entirely by those how benefit straight.
  4. The ecological deductions of dredging demand to be examined exhaustively. Again a cost benefit analysis accounting for ecological, economic and societal parametric quantities demands to be conducted for each dredging operation. Besides it is indispensable to analyze how beach nutriments along with tidal channel resettlements affect neighboring states.
  5. The ecological footmark of Existing Delta plants need to be re-evaluated and adjusted consequently.
  6. Where applicable salt gradients may be applied. This will work out of course H2O quality jobs while giving an extra environmental value to the country.
  7. International cooperation with neighbouring states in order to harmonize the inundation protection steps in such a manner that the inundation protection plants of one state does non decline the effects on the other.
  8. The capacity of the state to retain fresh H2O demands to me increased. Either by agencies of more reservoirs or by intensifying bing. This is indispensable as future sea degree rise will increase the phenomena salt H2O invasion.
  9. Political organisation must be strengthened by:
    1. Supplying a national and regional duties to stipulate administrative organic structures
    2. Making a parliament commission with the exclusive duty of oversing the Delta Plan
  10. The necessary financess need to be secured by:
    1. Making a Delta Fund.
    2. Supplying the Delta Fund with the necessary capital and equity.
    3. Procuring a part of the oil and gas premiums for the Delta Fund.
    4. Making the necessary legislative model that will specify how financess could be withdrawn from the Fund.
  11. The Creation of the Delta Act that will define the political, economic and administrative model. This act must define:
    1. The Delta Fund supply of resources.
    2. The Delta Committee’s duties and governments.
    3. Regulations for land acquisition.
    4. Rules for the compensation for amendss as consequence of the deduction of the Delta Plan.

6. Bibliography

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Delta Commissie. ( 2008 ) .Working together with H2O: Findingss of the Deltacommissie.The Hague: Hollandia Printing.

Delta Works Online Fundation. ( 2004 ) .Deltawerken. Retrieved February 21, 2014, from hypertext transfer protocol: //

Gerritsen, H. ( 2005 ) . What happenend in 1953? The Big Flood in the Netherlands.Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A., 363, 1271-1291.

Rijkswaterstaat and KNMI. ( 1961 ) .Report on the 1953 inundation.Dutch capital: Rijkswaterstaat.

Schipper, P. ( 2000 ) .Orisant. Retrieved February 21, 2014, from hypertext transfer protocol: //

Slager, K. ( 1992 ) .The catastrophe( 2nd ed. ) . Amsterdam: Uitheverij Atlas.

Slager, K. ( 2003 ) .How was Reconstruction organised?Gouda: Terugblik.

Van Baars, S. ( 2009 ) .The Causes and Mechanisms of Historical Dike Failures in the Netherlands.Delft: European Water Association ( EWA ) .

Van der Ham, W. ( 2003 ) .Maestro of the Sea. Johan new wave Veen ( 1893-1959 ) Water Engineer.Utrecht: Uitgeverij Balans.

Van Veen, J. ( 1962 ) .Dredge, drain, reclaim.The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

Watersnoodmuseum. ( 2013 ) .Watersnoodmuseum. Retrieved February 21, 2014, from hypertext transfer protocol: //

Wolf, J. & A ; . ( 2005 ) . Modeling moving ridges and rushs during the 1953 storm.Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A., 363, 1359-1375.

Zuehlke, M. ( 2010 ) .On to Victory: The Canadian Liberation of the Netherlands.Vancouver: D & A ; M Publisher Inc.