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Zeeland: The Flood and the Delta Works Posted by on Jul 28, 2014 in History

I remember learning to swim when I was young and hearing that in a fight between man and water, water always win. Because of this, I was always very respectful of water as I swam. As natural disasters related to water surged, this idea was reaffirmed. Water would always win.

As I made plans to move to the Netherlands, I began to research this unique country. Naturally, its fight against water was one of the first things I read about which is why a visit to the Delta Works was something of a priority.

On the night of January 31st, 1953, a very strong storm reached the Netherlands causing tremendous damage. Because a spring tide combined with a European windstorm, great tides collapsed any sea defenses in the Netherlands, in Belgium, in England and Scotland. In the Netherlands, radio stations had no broadcasts at night, and the people in the affected areas were not informed about the severity of the storm. It is estimated that 1,835 people and 30,000 animals drowned, and the material damage included 1,365 squared meters of flooded land, and 47,300 of damaged buildings. Countries throughout the world sent help in the form of soldiers, money and provisions to help survivors. This overstroming or flood is now referred to as the Watersnoodramp or water ordeal disaster.

Because of the Netherland’s vulnerability to another overstroming, a project was begun in order to research how best to protect the country. Construction of this project, know as the Delta Works, began in 1958 and finished in 1997, although there is constant maintenance and study to ensure the country continues to be safe.

In Zeeland, Neeltje Jans provides visitors with clear explanation of the Delta Works as well as a visit to the dike. The video explaining how the Delta Works were built is impressive. The quest to protect the country from overstroming has led the Netherlands to innovative constructions as well as sharing of ideas and projects with other countries such as the U.S. for Louisiana and New York.

Perhaps we will never “beat” water, however, our ingenuity can lead us to great ideas that will protect us.


The following video narrates the Watersnoodramp of 1953. What three things can you understand from the video? Please share them with the rest of the readers!


Useful Vocabulary:

de overstroming – the flood

overstromen – to flood

de dijk – the dike

de storm – the storm

verdrinken– to drown

de dood – the death

de zee – the sea

het getij – the tide

de wind – the wind

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About the Author: Karoly Molina

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with languages and writing. I speak English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and a little bit of French. I am a writer, reader, language teacher, traveler, and a food lover! I now live in The Netherlands with my husband Riccardo, our cat Mona, and our dog Lisa, and the experience has been phenomenal. The Dutch culture is an exciting sometimes topsy-turvy world that I am happily exploring!