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Netherlands to simulate massive flood rescue

The imaginary flood could come either as a result of a storm at sea or a rise in river levels due to heavy rains.
by Staff Writers
The Hague (AFP) Oct 31, 2008
Low-lying Netherlands will deploy 10,000 officials and rescue staff next week for a five-day, country-wide simulated rescue effort in preparation for doomsday flood predictions.

"Next week, we will determine how prepared the Netherlands is for the consequences of a flood," Jan Franssen, who heads the government commission organising the exercise, told journalists in The Hague.

Since the devastating floods of 1953, which claimed nearly 1,800 lives in the Netherlands, "we have never determined what the management of a such a crisis will entail", said Franssen.

Thus over five days next week, some 10,000 officials "from the mayor of the smallest village to the prime minister", will simulate rescue efforts in a flood "the magnitude of which one can only imagine".

Last month, a government-appointed commission said the Dutch government must spend more than 100 billion euros (127 billion dollars) over the next century on dike upgrades and coastal expansion to avoid the ravages of rising sea levels due to global warming.

Nearly two-thirds of the country lies below sea level.

The commission predicted a sea level rise of between 0.65 and 1.3 metres (2.15 and 4.3 feet) by 2100, and up to four metres by 2200, warning that the chances of flooding multiplied 100-fold with every 1.3 metre rise.

Franssen said the imaginary flood could come either as a result of a storm at sea or a rise in river levels due to heavy rains.

The police, fire brigade and army would take part in the operation, as will authorities responsible for the surveillance of dikes and rivers, provincial and national government officials.

The cabinet will hold a mock crisis meeting on Monday.

Some nine million of the 16-million Dutch population lives in 60 percent of the country protected by dykes and dunes, and contribute more than 65 percent of gross domestic product.

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