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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!


Comments:

  1. Diana Jeuda:

    The entry to Neeltje Jans is expensive – around €20 and I did not find it good value for money (plus expensive car parking) unless you want a day out in the water park. The exhibition about the Delta Works is small and I haven’t met anyone who has been and who has been impressed. (I keep my boat in nearby Brouwershaven although I live in England).

    If you are in the area, a much better experience is to go to the incredibly moving Watersnoodmuseum at Ouwekerk near Zierikzee. This award winning museum is housed in four enormous caissons (Ouwerkerke was itself almost totally wiped out.)

    The first caisson gives the facts about the disaster.

    The second is dedicated to “de emoties”. The emotions. Among the many moving things in this caisson are lists on huge boards of the names, ages, and the villages of the victims. You can see how whole families were lost and the enormous loss of lives in villages like Oude Tonge. There are stories from the survivors. And lots of powerful film footage. You see too the way the rest of the world rallied to aid the Netherlands

    The third and fourth caissons describe the building works needed for recovery, the Deltaproject and the future of flood protection.

    It is a museum that I take all my visiting crews to. Everyone finds it a fascinating and moving experience. If you are in the Zierikzee area, it is one of the most worthwhile things to do! I have now been perhaps half a dozen times and take something new from every visit.

    And it’s only €8!

    Finally,can I recommend Ineke Mahieu’s Overal Water. The first book I ever read in Dutch – The story of the floods told from a perspective of a 12 year old boy living in a village based on Ouwerkerke. It’s written for a 12 year old audience, so it is a fast moving story that I found excellent for my still beginner Dutch.

    • Karoly G Molina:

      @Diana Jeuda Diana,
      I will definitely check out the museum you mentioned as well as the book! Thank you for the suggestion. As for Neeltje Jans, the entrance is expensive, but I was very impressed by what they had to show. Like I mentioned on the post, the fight of man vs. water intrigues me!

  2. Anja Wing:

    I was 5 years old and remember this storm – we lived in Wassenaar at the time and my father used his delivery truck to ferry blankets back at forth to the affected areas.

    • Karoly G Molina:

      @Anja Wing Anja, I think people like your father are real heroes!