Dutch dyke in danger of bursting


Dutch soldiers and police evacuated a northern area of the Netherlands today where an inland dyke has started leaking and is at risk of breaking after heavy rains.

Media reported that the 800 people left the area from the early hours of the morning in four villages in the province of Groningen after days of rain. The evacuation followed calls yesterday day for 100 residents to leave their homes and farms in the same northern province.

Local authorities said moving residents to safety was their first priority, and that teams were also preparing to move thousands of cattle left on farms.

Residents and the military packed sandbags along a 400m section of the dyke to help plug the leaks, and roads into the area were blocked.

"We are afraid the dyke is weaker than it looks... the chance of it breaking is still not very high, but if it does, the effect will be enormous," Yvonne van Mastrigt, a local official, told Dutch news agency ANP.

The Ministry of Infrastructure has also warned of high water levels along the coast due to storms.

More than half the population in the Netherlands lives in areas below sea level where two-thirds of the country's GDP is generated, according to a 2008 government commission. The low-lying country suffered from devastating floods in 1953 which killed nearly 2,000 people and caused heavy damage to property.