The 1953 flood disaster, also known as the Watersnoodramp, occurred on January 31st, 1953 in the Netherlands. It was caused by a severe storm that hit the country, resulting in the dikes being breached in multiple places.
The storm surge, combined with high tides, caused flooding in large areas of the Netherlands, with the provinces of Zeeland, South Holland, and North Brabant being the most affected. The water rose as high as almost 6 meters above sea level. The impact was huge as a large part of the Netherlands is below sea level.
Due to the time of the disaster, late evening and night, the warnings were not received in time as radio stations and weather stations only operated during the day. This meant that people for not able to prepare for the flood. Other problems were that many government and emergency offices were closed because it happened on a Saturday. In addition, due to the flood many telephone networks were disrupted and communication was hard. The death toll was 1,835 people and many more were injured. The flood also caused widespread damage to property, infrastructure, and agriculture.
Many neighbouring countries sent help. They helped with saving people from rooftops, recovering bodies and collecting donations.
The disaster prompted the Dutch government to start the Delta Works, an ambitious project to protect the country from future flooding. The project involved the construction of dams, storm surge barriers, and other flood protection measures, which were completed in the late 1990s. The project has been widely considered a success, with the Netherlands being much better prepared for potential floods today.
The disaster also had a profound effect on the Dutch society and culture, with the memory of the flood being passed down through generations. Many songs, books and movies were made about the flood, and the disaster is still remembered every year on the 31st of January.