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Dutch on Flood Watch as Storms Hit Flights, Shipping, Farmland

January 06, 2012

Jan. 5 (Bloomberg) -- The Dutch authorities are taking measures to prevent flooding across the country amid storms that have delayed flights, disrupted shipping at Rotterdam and led to evacuations of cattle and livestock.

Most flights at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport are being delayed and some have been canceled as high winds limit the number of available runways, according to the airport website. Some ships have been unable to enter or leave Rotterdam, Europe’s biggest port. People and cattle are being evacuated in the northern province of Groningen after heavy rain raised water levels in the canals that crisscross the low-lying country.

“Much rain has fallen in a short time, resulting in very high water levels,” the Groningen fire department said on its website today. High winds are limiting the discharge of water from the canals into the sea.

The Netherlands, a delta where the Rhine and the Meuse flow into the North Sea, is at risk of flooding when rivers and sea levels rise at the same time, a government advisory commission said in 2008. About 11 million people, the majority of the Dutch population, live in areas threatened by higher water levels. About 65 percent of gross domestic product is generated there.

Dikes along the North Sea and the Wadden Sea are being closely monitored after a high-water alert was issued due to the extreme weather conditions. The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, KNMI, forecast wind speeds gusting to 110 kilometers (85 miles) an hour.

Rhine Waters

Water levels in the Rhine have also been swelled by continuing rainfall. The Dutch Inland Water Information Center forecast that the river’s level at the town of Lobith on the German border would to rise to 14 meters (46 feet) above sea level on Jan. 9 from 12.26 meters today.

Police closed down an area west of the city of Groningen, 147 kilometers northeast of Amsterdam. About 100 people live in 40 houses, including 10 farms, in the Tolberter Petten polder, which could be flooded to a depth of as much as 1 meter if the dikes break, the ANP newswire said.

Pilot services in Rotterdam’s port will be restricted until tomorrow afternoon. Large ships can request that a pilot be sent by helicopter if possible and some smaller ships can be guided remotely, port spokesman Minco van Heezen said by telephone today. Two ships are waiting to enter the harbor and 11 vessels are unable to leave, he said.

Container Disruption

Container handlers such as APM Terminals Rotterdam are being forced to stop work at times due to the weather, Van Heezen said.

Ferry services to islands off the northern Dutch coast have been restricted or suspended, operator Doeksen said on its website.

Nederlandse Aardoliemaatschappij BV, owned by Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Exxon Mobil Corp., halted two unmanned gas- production sites in the region, adding that the measure won’t affect Dutch supplies.

Interpolis, a unit of the biggest Dutch insurance company, Achmea BV, said it received about 2 million euros in claims for wind and rain damage in the first week of 2012 from both individuals and agricultural companies.

Rising water levels are also threatening the Groninger Museum in the provincial capital and its current exhibition about fashion designer Azzedine Alaia. The museum, designed by architect Alessandro Mendini and reopened in 1994, doesn’t need to evacuate any art works yet, according to a posting on its Twitter account.

--Editors: Eddie Buckle, Fergal O’Brien

To contact the reporter on this story: Jurjen van de Pol in Amsterdam at; Maud van Gaal in Amsterdam at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: James Ludden at

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