Jan 31, 2023 at 5:07 AMUpdate: 44 minutes ago
In 1953 the flood disaster took place. Large parts of the southwest of the Netherlands were flooded. At least 1,836 people did not survive the disaster. Now, seventy years later, 105 people are still registered as missing. A timeline of the flood disaster.
Saturday February 31
In the night of Saturday January 31 to Sunday February 1, 1953, the KNMI issued a warning for bad weather. A northwesterly storm is on its way. There will also be ‘dangerous high water’. In addition, it is spring tide, which means that the water is higher than normal at high tide. The warning is ignored by many people. They are used to living with the water and think it’s not too bad. But it’s not easy. If it is low tide at 10:30 pm, the water should be low. But that doesn’t happen. The wind pushes up the water. A house badly damaged by the water. Photo: Nationaal Archief
Sunday February 1
But of course it will also be flooding again. At 02:00 the seawater washes over the dikes for the first time. And an hour later, things go wrong. The first dikes break at Kruiningen and Kortgene (both in Zeeland) and Oude-Tonge in South Holland. In many other places in Zeeland, South Holland and North Brabant, the dikes will not hold. Nearly a hundred dikes are failing. The islands of Schouwen-Duiveland, Tholen (both Zeeland) and Goeree-Overflakkee (South Holland) are almost completely submerged. Hardly anyone knows that yet. The Zeeland and South Holland islands were still real islands at that time. And because of the floods, the telephone lines are no longer working. During the second flood (Sunday during the day), the water rises even higher than during the night when the dikes broke. Thousands of people have to climb onto the roof and many victims fall as a result of the second flood.
Monday February 2 (and the days after)
When the first plane flies over the disaster area in the afternoon, the enormous scale of the flood disaster becomes apparent. More than 150,000 hectares of land (more than 200,000 football fields) have been flooded. It soon becomes clear that hundreds of people have died. A huge aid campaign is underway, from home and abroad. Finally, on February 5, the last survivors are rescued. Sunday, February 8, is a day of national mourning. The flood disaster killed 1,836 people. 105 people have never been found and bodies of unknown dead have also been buried. 200,000 animals also do not survive the floods. Thousands of homes have become uninhabitable and another 43,000 homes are damaged. The total damage amounts to 1.5 billion guilders, which would now be 5.4 billion euros. The Oosterscheldekering is one of the Delta Works that came after 1953. Photo: Getty Images
After the flood disaster
Already before the flood disaster, several warnings were issued about the poor condition of the Dutch dikes. But those warnings are not always acted upon. That will happen after the disaster. Plans were soon drawn up to properly protect the coast of the southwest Netherlands. These plans ultimately result in the Delta Works. The first (Hollandsche IJsselkering) was completed in 1958 and the last two (Maeslantkering and Hartelkering) in 1997. Perhaps the most iconic is the Oosterscheldekering. If the water is too high, steel walls can be pushed down to stop the water. In this way, the Oosterschelde remains in open connection with the North Sea. As a result, special animal and plant species can survive in the Oosterschelde.