shameless WSJ


送交者: xj 于 2005-9-08, 10:09:06:

回答: Hurricane Katrina-Our Experiences 由 xj 于 2005-9-08, 10:05:14:

They try to divert the focus on who is responsible for this disaster.

They claim that we should look forward to rebuilding the NO, instead of blaming each other. It is true that we should move on, but we also need to learn the lesson. What is wrong in the NO and how can we prevent it happening again.


Katrina, Juliana, and Wilhelmina

September 7, 2005; Page A16

Many Dutch, shocked by seeing the devastation caused in the U.S. by
Hurricane Katrina, were reminded of what happened to their own country more
than 50 years ago. On Feb. 1, 1953, the southwestern part of the Netherlands
was struck by a flood of biblical proportions. The Dutch levee system
collapsed in 500 places. There was nowhere to hide. More than 1,800 people
drowned, together with tens of thousands of cattle and other animals. Some
4,000 houses were destroyed, and 40,000 severely damaged. About 100,000
people had to evacuate out of a population of around 12 million.

The Dutch had suffered catastrophic floods before, but the deluge of 1953
was a different kind. Just consider that twice as many people were killed in
the flood as during the infamous German bombing of Rotterdam in 1940. The
nation was stunned. Older Dutch from the southwestern islands still get
tears in their eyes when they talk about how they lost loved ones during
what is simply called "the disaster."

The Dutch reaction was: Never Again. The government decided to give the
southwestern and most vulnerable part of the country the best possible
protection. Eleven massive dams, sea walls and sluices were created in
waters that sometimes look more like a sea than a river. The hydraulic wall
built in the vast Oosterschelde, for instance, is 5.6 miles long and rests
on 65 concrete pillars about 43 yards tall. Its sluice-gate doors are
usually open to protect the special habitat (partly seawater, partly
freshwater) behind it, and are only closed when floods are imminent.

Another wall, the Maeslantbarrier that completed the protection system,
consists of two hollow doors -- as long as the Eiffel Tower in Paris is
tall, and four times as heavy -- which are lying in docks on the banks of
the Nieuwe Waterweg. In the event of extreme bad weather the docks are
filled with water, and the gates float and are turned into the Nieuwe
Waterweg where they seal off the river. In that way this barrier protects
the city of Rotterdam and its surroundings, where about the same number of
people live as did in greater New Orleans.

This complex system of dams and barriers -- called the Delta plan -- is a
technological achievement comparable maybe in its complexity and ambition to
the American Apollo project that put a man on the moon. After all, the Delta
plan was designed to protect the Netherlands from flood conditions that
happen only once every 10,000 years! New Orleans, on the other hand, was
protected only against hurricanes that occur every 50 years. The total cost
of the Delta plan, which began in 1953 and was only completed a couple of
years ago, amounted to $5 billion.

There are other interesting similarities as well as striking differences
between the Netherlands in 1953 and New Orleans in 2005. First, the
geography. The Netherlands is an estuary. It was shaped by the sedimentation
of three huge rivers -- the Rhine, the Meuse and the Scheldt. Like New
Orleans, two-thirds of the Netherlands is below sea level. The
meteorological conditions were also similar, that is to say unique -- a
combination of spring tides, gale-force winds and deep depressions. At high
tide, the sea level at Hoek van Holland usually is 31 inches above average;
on the night of the disaster it was 150 inches above average. The storm also
lasted unusually long: 33 hours without letup.

As in the American Gulf states, the Dutch levee system had been neglected.
It was not long after World War II; the Netherlands had just lost its
colony, Indonesia; and the Cold War diverted money and attention. And yet,
the disaster was not unexpected. Experts had calculated that the sea could
rise up to 13 feet, and six months before the storm, the well-respected
Dutch engineer Johan van Veen warned that a terrible tragedy could happen. A
major difference between 1953 and 2005, however, was the level of awareness.
Even outside the U.S., people had information that Hurricane Katrina was
headed for New Orleans. Most Dutch, rather poor in 1953, only had radio in
those days. Telephones were rare, TV sets a curiosity.

Two Dutch researchers, Uri Rosenthal and Geesje Saeijs, concluded in a 2003
study that the failure of the alarm system was the biggest fault of 1953.
The Dutch meteorological service actually predicted the storm. There was a
warning system, but only three of the more than 1,000 Dutch water boards,
which for centuries used to take care of the dikes, had a subscription to

The Netherlands was still rather religious in those days and not much public
activity was permitted on the seventh day of creation. So the radio simply
stopped broadcasting at midnight on Saturday, just before the storm gained
strength. The population and local authorities were, therefore, utterly
unprepared for what hit them on Sunday morning.

Repopulating in some areas took up to two years. Several months after the
flood, people still had to identify recently found corpses. The small holes
in the dikes were fixed within weeks, but the big ones were still open
half-a-year later and required special efforts. One hole near Rotterdam was
closed by parking a ship in it, and several holes were repaired with the
help of enormous Phoenix caissons, originally designed for the invasion of
Normandy in 1944 and transported from Britain.

Quite remarkable was the absence of naming and shaming. Nowadays, the Dutch
parliament routinely holds inquiries, but after the flood of 1953 all
political parties (except for the communists) stressed that it was not
useful to look for "scapegoats," as one leading politician of those days
called it. The disaster was, according to one member of the Dutch
government, an "act of God."

It took 30 to 40 years before researchers concluded that the big flood was
also partly man-made. Dikes had been neglected, flood gates that should have
been closed remained open, civil servants who were warned by the
meteorological service slept through the storm -- there was a general lack
of both local and national leadership.

A notable exception was the royal family. Within one day of the disaster,
Queen Juliana and her mother, Queen Mother Wilhelmina, visited drowned
areas, wading through the water with rubber boots. Many who had lost
everything recounted in newspaper stories how important these symbolic
gestures were. Even the left-wing newspaper Het Vrije Volk wrote: "The queen
is everywhere these days. . . . Just by being there she gives hope."

Mr. Rozendaal is the science writer for Elsevier, a Dutch weekly



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