Holland remembers 1953 flood
Ask a Dutchman if he feels threatened by the fact that sixty percent of his
country lies under sea level, and he will answer yes. Recently Alterra
researchers examined the feeling of safety and they concluded that people
felt one hundred percent safe behind the dykes. It is a feeling built on
fifty years belief in the possibility of shaping nature by the hand of man.
With the commemoration of the disaster, the first cracks are starting to
appear in this belief.
In 1953 Dutchmen felt as safe behind the dykes as nowadays, but they were
wrong. On the night of 31 January and 1 February the dykes collapsed in
large parts of the provinces of Zeeland, Noord-Brabant and Zuid-Holland.
Two major inundations flooded 200,000 hectares of land, killing 1835
inhabitants. In the whole area three thousand houses and three hundred
farms were destroyed, forty thousand houses and three thousand farms
damaged, and 47,000 cattle and 140,000 poultry were drowned.
But why did people feel safe behind the dykes? In the reconstruction of how
it all came about, Dutch journalist Kees Slager came across several early
warnings issued by journalists and experts, but magazines just did not want
to publish them. “These people had just lived through five years of Nazi