On the night of Jan. 31-Feb. 1, it will be 70 years since the Netherlands faced the greatest natural disaster of the 20th century: the Watersnoodramp.
A heavy storm combined with spring tide causes dikes to breach in Zeeland, West Brabant, South Holland and on Texel. Large parts of the western Netherlands are flooded. People and animals drown, houses wash away. 1836 people die, thousands are homeless.
70 years of flood disaster
The water level rose in Dordrecht to +3.73 meters above NAP. Nevertheless, the consequences for the city were not as great as in other places. However, this was no coincidence: in Papendrecht and Sliedrecht, the dikes along the Merwede broke. The water flowed into the Alblasserwaard. Farmers moved their cattle to higher ground and sandbags were filled to protect houses from the high water.
The dike at the Dordrecht Kil broke as well, which had enormous consequences for the Hoeksche Waard: 137 inhabitants were killed. Still, the situation in Dordrecht was very critical. The Zeedijk and Noordendijk formed the main water barrier of Dordrecht. In the early morning of February 1, local residents saw the water slamming over the Zeedijk (near Stadspolders). The dike was on the verge of collapsing. Local residents rushed to the dike, which had by now crumbled, and filled thousands of sandbags to strengthen the dike. Risking their lives, the people of Dordrecht managed to save the dike and prevent a major disaster.
To this day, water is still the defining factor in this area. Dordrecht lies in the middle of the delta and then also at the lowest point. The Voorstraat is the lowest seawall in the Netherlands and should actually be raised one meter.
The closure of the Haringvliet, with the construction of the Maeslantkering, has reduced the danger from the sea a lot. However, wet feet cannot always be avoided. Threats from the rivers remain. Over the past forty years, the water rose above the 2-meter limit and flowed onto the quays dozens of times. With sandbags and flood partitions, residents of the historic port area try to limit the nuisance of high water.
The Hoogwaterwandeling Dordrecht takes you along points where water is sometimes a friend and sometimes an enemy. The route is free to download:indordrecht.nl/routes/highwaterroute.
NTR has produced a four-part documentary series entitled "Het water komt" on the occasion of the 70th commemoration of the Watersnoodramp. In addition to this well-reviewed series, a podwalk app was launched "Het water komt". One of the historic water walks takes place in Dordrecht. The app can be downloaded for free in the App-store or Play-store.